I need to discuss an urgent issue. I read a letter recently in the paper from woman (A) who wanted to make a “public apology” to a driver, woman (B), for “strongly” voicing an opinion about B letting her dog ride in the bed of a pick up truck. It seems B’s dog jumped out of the truck and was dragged behind it for a short distance until A yelled for B to stop. A and B shared some “heated” words, B claiming it was the dog’s own fault.

Now, let’s do a reality check. Of course it was the dog’s fault. We often forget that dogs are animals and their instincts are extremely powerful. Dog’s are rarely capable of staying in a truck, or anywhere else, when their instinct says “get it”. But dogs are not responsible for, nor capable of, securing themselves to the bed of a truck. But even this is not the crux of my utter dismay at B’s lack of owner responsibility. The real issue here is that lives are jeopardized every time someone transports a dog on the highway, in the back of a truck, without appropriate restraints. Aside from the dog jumping out and getting dragged behind the vehicle, a dog on a shorter tether can hang itself over the side. As a vet tech I unfortunately saw the result of this firsthand.

How many times have we all driven behind a pick up on the highway, going at least 55, and seen a dog standing on the tire well, inches from going over the edge? Not to mention getting whatever is in the air and on the asphalt blown in its face – another health risk! How many times have we seen a dog lying on a high bench in the back of the truck, not secured to anything, anxiously waiting to see what happens when the driver has to make a sharp turn. I know, for me, the faster I can get in front of that truck the better. I don’t want to be the one that runs over the dog when it falls out. Nor do I want to cause a major accident because I have to slam on my brakes or swerve wildly to avoid hitting it.

There is no way to guarantee that a dog is going to stay in the back of the truck unless the tether is short enough that the dog can only lie down or sit. Even then, if the tether is not made of metal, it can be chewed through.

Alternatives to having your dog exposed in the bed of the truck vary, as shown in the California vehicle code. Crates, harnesses or seat belts to secure the dog in the cab are all good options. Or simply attach a short chain to the bed and make sure the dog is secure.

Here is the law:
CALIFORNIA VEHICLE CODE SECTIONS 23117
(a) No person driving a motor vehicle shall transport any animal in the back of the vehicle in a space intended for any load on the vehicle on a highway unless the space is enclosed or has side and tail racks to a height of at least 46 inches extending vertically from the floor, the vehicle has installed means of preventing the animal from being discharged, or the animal is cross tethered to the vehicle, or is protected by a secured container or cage, in a manner which will prevent the animal from being thrown, falling, or jumping from the vehicle.
(b) This section does not apply to any of the following:
(1) The transportation of livestock.
(2) The transportation of a dog whose owner either owns or is employed by a ranching or farming operation who is traveling on a road in a rural area or who is traveling to and from a livestock auction.
(3) The transportation of a dog for purposes associated with ranching or farming.

There may also be additional city ordinances where you live. In any event, I say we mustn’t feel intimidated by people that we see doing the wrong thing. And to woman A, don’t ever apologize for trying to help an animal that cannot speak for itself.