Animal transport called shared responsibility

CFIA says regulations apply to those who plan transport and assemble, catch, load, unload, move and confine livestock

Shared responsibility is a key phrase when it comes to humane livestock transport.

New federal regulations came into effect in February with a two-year grace period on enforcement of some portions to allow the industry to adjust. Everybody involved directly or indirectly in shipping livestock shares responsibility for safe and humane movement and handling, says a Canadian Food Inspection Agency veterinarian.

In a Sept. 9 online session aimed at pork producers and organized by the Alberta Farm Animal Care Council, Dr. Anne Allen of the CFIA said the rules affect producers, transporters and others, among them those who:

  • plan the transport
  • prepare animals for the journey, including feed, water and rest intervals
  • assemble animals
  • catch animals
  • load animals
  • confine animals in a crate or conveyance
  • move animals from a point of origin to a destination
  • unload animals from the conveyance

“Everybody involved has a share in the humane transport process,” said Allen.

“Historically, we used to turn to the transporter all the time, and say, ‘if something bad happened, it’s your fault.’ And the truth is, they’re not the only people implicated. There are always other people in play and it’s never going to be OK anymore to just shrug your shoulders and go ‘not my problem’ because it’s the problem of everybody who’s involved in the chain.”

With regard to pig transport, Allen said the national code of practice and the Canadian Pork Council’s PigCare program are in line with the revised regulations, and the Canadian Livestock Transport certification program has been updated to match them as well.

There is onus on producers to assess each animal’s capacity to withstand transport before it is loaded. That assessment is critical, she said, “to make sure that every animal you put on that truck has a realistic expectation of making it to where they’re going and still being in good shape.”

Checks should be made on animals with pre-existing conditions such as lameness, and consideration must also be given to livestock trailer space requirements, temperature, compatibility of the animals and duration of the trip.

The requirement to assess is a new area of the regulations, said Allen. If a hog producer identifies any animals as being challenged, the truck driver must also be notified.

That driver is responsible for monitoring the animals en route at appropriate times and frequency. If the truck has to brake suddenly, for example, the driver should check on the animals.

Livestock transporters should have contingency plans in the event an animal is injured or goes down in the truck. That might include euthanization or contact with a nearby veterinarian. Allen said response is not prescribed in the regulations. The onus is upon transporters to have a plan.

Transporters must also keep additional records. Besides the usual manifest noting dates, shipper and receiver, data must include the time when the animals last had food, water and rest.

Allen said the other necessary record, new in the regulations, is transfer of care documentation. It is designed to ensure the pigs are always in someone’s care and control.

When left at any slaughter facility or assembly yard, the transporter must record and provide the time, the condition of the pigs upon arrival and the date and time when the animals last had food, water and rest.

Regulations stipulate that pigs cannot be transported longer than 28 hours without food, water and rest and the clock starts ticking when any one of those three items are withdrawn.

The transporter must get acknowledgment of this data from the receiver, said Allen.

Regulations include provisions for shipping vulnerable or compromised animals, including such things as isolation within the trailer, direct route to slaughter and possibly pain mitigation. Unfit pigs can only be transported directly to a veterinarian in as short a time as possible.

The rules on acceptable animal handling prohibit anyone from beating, kicking and whipping animals or lifting them by body parts. Ramps for pigs must not exceed 20 degrees when entering a truck.

“If you’re using the acceptable handling methods, then there is no issue,” said Allen. “Normal production methods are OK. It’s when you lose your temper and strike an animal that it’s not OK.”

As for enforcement, Allen said officials have several options if rules are violated. They can seize and detain the load, require it to go to another location or order unfit animals to be humanely killed.

They can also issue letters of non-compliance, warnings or assess financial penalties. The latter include up to $5,000 for a minor infraction, up to $15,000 for a serious infraction and up to $25,000 for a very serious infraction.

Prosecution is another option, although Allen said that is expected to be rare because the intent is to get compliance with regulations through education if possible.

Transporters have questioned how to mesh regulations with the required driver hours of service rules. Delays from traffic, mechanical breakdown or border crossings, for example, could extend journeys.

Drivers are required to take eight hours rest after driving for 11 hours and that could mean a load of pigs might be without food, water and rest for longer than 28 hours.

“When something bad happens, and it probably could, then the expectation is that you take steps proactively to look after the animal welfare,” said Allen. “We have to deal with the situations that we’re given in the very best way we can.”

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