Why would someone put several horses in a steel container and then transport them on a commercial cargo ship in the summer heat? Most people with an ounce of common sense and compassion would realize that this is dangerous and unethical, but the company TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico currently moves Thoroughbreds via cargo ship from Florida’s Port of Jacksonville to San Juan.
This is a grueling, days-long journey, and some horses don’t survive it. The long trip, insufficient space, and often limited air circulation can result in soaring temperatures inside the shipping containers, which can quickly become dangerous for equines. High temperatures put horses at risk of heatstroke, brain damage, and death. Even in cooler temperatures, this type of transportation is unethical, as the restricted space may contribute to serious health issues, such as edema or laminitis. Shipping horses via cargo ship is so dangerous that in 2019, eight horses died aboard a TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico containership while being transported from the Port of Jacksonville to San Juan—and the company still didn’t end this cruel practice.
People in the racing industry continue to transport horses on cargo ships because the cost is often lower than that of air transport. Owners save money at the horses’ expense. TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico has refused to ban this outdated practice, even though humane transportation options exist. With high temperatures expected for the remainder of the summer, it’s likely that more horses will die if immediate action isn’t taken.
Please urge Dr. Alejandro Perez, the state animal health officer for the Puerto Rico Department of Agriculture, to stop issuing import licenses for horses transported via cargo ship.