Humane Handling of Downer Animals
- To offload a non-ambulatory animal from a truck, plants should use the
truck exit nearest to the animal and should place as little stress as
possible on the animal. In some cases, a slide board or cripple cart may
be helpful. The board can then be dragged off the truck and the animal
loaded into a suitable mechanical device for transport to an inspection
- The Humane Slaughter Act prohibits dragging of downed or crippled
livestock in the stockyards, crowd pen or stunning chute. By using
slide boards and cripple carts, animals can be transported humanely and
efficiently to a pen or other area where they can be examined by an
inspector, stunned and moved to slaughter.
- In all cases, disabled livestock should be handled and moved as
little as possible. Trucks carrying downers should park as close to the
slaughter area as possible, and disabled animals should be inspected by a
USDA veterinarian, stunned and moved to slaughter as quickly as possible.
- Inspection and Slaughtering Considerations -- USDA rules require
that any "suspect" animal - an animal with signs of abnormalities or
diseases must be held separately and closely examined by a USDA inspection
service veterinarian. For meat packers, this means that downer animals
must be held apart from other animals in a "suspect" pen for USDA
inspection. "Suspect" animals must be slaughtered separately so
inspectors can carefully examine the animals' carcasses and parts.
- Plants should call for the USDA veterinarian as soon as a disabled
animal arrives. Once the animal has been examined by the USDA inspector,
plants should identify the earliest possible point in production when that
animal may be slaughtered "separately." This separation point should be
discussed with the USDA inspector. It should be noted that plants need
not always wait until the end of a shift to slaughter a "suspect" animal.
Waiting can prolong a disabled animal's suffering.
- If a steer or cow goes down in the single file chute which leads to
the stunner, it must be stunned prior to dragging. A cartridge-fired
captive bolt on a long handle is recommended. If blood gets on the chute,
wash it off to prevent balking. In pork plants, the stunning chute should
be equipped with side doors so that stressed-out downer pigs can be easily
- Many problems with splitter and downer pigs are
genetic. Weak hindquarters in pigs is correctable by breeding. Pigs will
sometimes collapse from PSS (Porcine Stress Syndrome). This is a genetic
defect which make a pig prone to a heart attack. PSS downers will
sometimes recover if they are left alone. Never throw cold water on a
disabled pig, the shock to its system will kill it. Wet the floor around
the pig and allow it to cool by evaporation.