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Twenty-Eight Hour Law

The Twenty-Eight Hour Law was originally passed on March 3, 1873. The law was then repealed and reenacted in 1906 and again in 1994 to set humane standards for the transportation of livestock. If livestock are being transported for longer than 28 consecutive hours, they must be offloaded for at least 5 consecutive hours to get feed, water, and rest. The U.S. Department of Agriculture enforces the Law.

Current Law and Regulations

  •  Twenty-Eight Hour Law - Current statute passed by U.S. Congress and incorporated into the United States Code at 49 U.S.C. 80502. The statute gives USDA authority to make regulations to implement and enforce the law by issuing regulations. 
  • Twenty-Eight Hour Law Regulations - The Code of Federal Regulations 9 C.F.R. Part 89 provides detailed guidance, standards, and rules drafted and adopted by the USDA to implement and enforce the Twenty-Eight Hour Law.

Twenty-Eight Hour Law in the Literature

The resources below show materials available from two U.S. libraries. Learn about the history and modifications of the Twenty-Eight Hour Law through books, periodicals, newspapers, and other materials. If you have any questions about accessing materials from the National Agricultural Library, contact us.

Additional Literature

Hearings before the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce of the House of Representatives

Government Printing Office. 

These hearings are from January 23rd, 30th and February 20, 1906 on House bills 47, 145, 440, 10699, 12316, 12478, and 12615, proposing to extend the time for which cattle and other animals may be confined during shipment from one state to another.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any exceptions to the Twenty-Eight Hour Law?

Yes, there are a few exceptions stated in the law: 49 U.S.C. § 80502 (2022). 

1. Animals transported by air or water are exempt (§ 80502 (a)(1)).

2. Sheep may be confined for an additional 8 consecutive hours without being unloaded if their period of confinement ends at night (§ 80502 (2)).

3. Animals can be confined longer than 28 consecutive hours when the animals can't be unloaded due to accidental or unavoidable causes (§ 80502 (2)(A)). 

4. Animals can be confined for up to 36 consecutive hours if it's requested in writing (§ 80502 (2)(B)). 

5. If animals have access to feed, water, and rest during transport, then these animals are exempt (§ 80502 (3)(c)).

What animals are protected under the Twenty-Eight Hour Law?

The term "animal" is not defined in the Twenty-Eight Hour Law. However, in the annotated version (The twenty-eight hour law annotated Act of Congress approved June 29, 1906, C. 3594, 34 stat. 607) the term animals describes "cattle, sheep, swine, or other animals" (pg. 7), where other animals refers to "mules and horses" (pg. 13). 

How long can animals be transported for before having to be offloaded? How long must animals be offloaded?

If animals are to be transported for longer than 28 consecutive hours (49 U.S.C. § 80502 (a)(1)(2022)) then they must be offloaded for at least 5 consecutive hours (49 U.S.C. § 80502 (b)(2022)). 

Does the Twenty-Eight Hour Law apply to livestock being shipped to other countries?

No, the law does not discuss the transportation of livestock to other countries. 

From 49 U.S.C. § 80502 (a)(1)(2022):

"...vessel transporting animals from a place in a State, the District of Columbia, or a territory or possession of the United States through or to a place in another State, the District of Columbia, or a territory or possession, may not confine animals in a vehicle or vessel for more than 28 consecutive hours without unloading the animals for feeding, water, and rest."

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