USDA livestock rule changed, kept quiet

US - The U. S. Department of Agriculture adopted a new policy that limits the number of hours livestock can be transported by truck, but didn’t tell anyone outside the government until this week — three years later.
calendar icon 2 October 2006
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For decades, the Twenty-Eight Hour Law, passed in 1873 to provide livestock with food, water and rest after 28 hours in rail cars, was not applied to trucks.

The agency never publicly announced the policy change, Jim Rogers, spokesman for the USDA’s Animal, Plant, Health Inspection Service, confirmed in an interview Thursday.

The policy change came to light this week in a letter the USDA sent to the Humane Society of the United States in response to a legal petition the group filed in October 2005 to extend the law to trucks.

The USDA clarified its position in a 2003 internal memo distributed to government veterinarians.

“The 28-hour law, first enacted in 1873, applied exclusively to animals by rail,” Rogers said. “In 2003, we sent our vets clarification on what that meant.”

In 1906, the law was amended to include companies using the railroad. The statute was amended again in 1994 to clarify the language.

“We never considered the 1906 law as being applicable to the transport of animals by truck,” Rogers said. “Now we see the meaning of the statutory term ‘vehicles’ means vehicle.”

Most livestock today is transported by trucks.

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