Take Action: 8 Horses DIED in a Steel Shipping Container

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Update: January 18, 2022
Progress! In a step forward, the Puerto Rico Gaming Commission has approved new criteria for transporting Thoroughbred racehorses via cargo boat. The new requirements include improvements such as protection from inclement weather, minimum stall space, and required feed. Enforcement of these new rules will be key to making them meaningful for Thoroughbreds, but ultimately a total ban on this archaic way of shipping all horses is a must.

Update: November 2, 2021
Progress! Tampa Bay Downs is banning owners and trainers who ship horses inhumanely, after hearing from PETA. The track has issued a notice that any owners or trainers who stable horses at the track and are found to have directly or indirectly transported a horse via cargo ship will have their stalls permanently revoked. Additionally, any licensee who is found to have transported a horse via cargo ship will not be allowed to participate at the track in any capacity.

Update: October 13, 2021
Progress! After PETA contacted Penn National Gaming, the company updated its policy to bar or sanction trainers who use cargo ships to transport horses. Penn joins The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, Gulfstream Park, Golden Gate Fields, Laurel Park, Pimlico Race Course, Santa Anita Park, and Indiana Grand, which all recently announced that they’re barring such trainers.

Opposition to the vile practice of transporting horses via cargo ship is gaining momentum. New York Thoroughbred Breeders and the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association have spoken out publicly against it.

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.


photo of horse

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.

photo of cargo ship

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.

Dr. Alejandro

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