You may see it quite often as you're driving around town: dogs riding in the back of trucks. You might even know someone who does it. Why not? It seems so convenient to just load your dog up in the back and take him with you.
However, according to the Humane Society of the United States, 100,000 dogs are killed each year in accidents involving riding in truck beds. In addition, veterinarians see numerous cases of dogs being injured because they jumped out or were thrown from the bed of a pickup truck. If these dogs are lucky enough to still be alive, broken legs and joint injuries are among the most common types of damage that they sustain and often result in amputation.
There are many dangers of having your four-legged friend loose in the bed of a truck while you're ramming the roads.
Eye, Ear and Nose Damage
This may not have occurred to you, since dogs always have a tendency to stick their heads out the window of a moving vehicle to smell all of those new smells on the open road. But being in the open air traveling at high speeds (whether a dog's head is out the window or he's in the back of the truck) can likely cause damage to the delicate parts of a dog's face. The swirling of the air currents in the bed of a pickup truck can cause dirt, debris and insects to become lodged in a dog's eyes, ears and nose.
Being Ejected from the Truck
We've all had to slam on our brakes while we're driving at some point; it's inevitable. Now imagine slamming on your brakes while your beloved dog is in the truck bed. He's going to get a serious jolt and it's possible that he could fly right out of the bed and into the road.
You also run the risk of getting into an accident while you're traveling with your precious cargo, which could also force him out of the bed. And if you think that securing him with a rope or chain is any better, you're wrong. There have been cases where dogs were thrown out of the back of the truck while still attached and being dragged on the road while the owner is still driving. Talk about a nightmare situation.
Even if you don't slam on your brakes or get into an accident, your dog may have plans of his own. Does your dog get easily distracted by squirrels, dogs or other animals? Who's to say he's not going to willingly jump out in order to better investigate a situation? How long would it take you to realize he's gone? How will you be able to protect him from getting hit by other cars or straying too far away while you're in the driver's seat?
What are the Laws?
In February of 2009, Sen. Norman Stone Jr.'s bill to ban riding around with dogs in truck beds was defeated in the Senate, 30-17. Although the House passed the bill unanimously in 2008, some senators questioned whether or not it was a real problem. Others worried farmers would be unable to ride with their dogs, leading to a lot of unhappy dogs.
There are, however, a number of individual states that have banned this type of pet travel, and other states have bills pending.
What's the Alternative?
Even though it's not against the law in all 50 states, traveling with dogs in the bed of your pickup trucks should never be an option. The Humane Society of the U.S. doesn't know of any brand of harness that is safe for the back of the truck.
It's best to have the dog in the cab with you, and if it's an extended cab, the dog should be restrained in the back and away from the windshield. For trucks, pet travel crates, pet safety belts and pet car seats are the safest bets. And if none of these are available to you at the time you're taking your truck (or any vehicle), consider keeping your dog safe at home.
TripsWithPets.com is the an online resource for pet travel. Named best pet travel site by Consumer Reports, TripsWithPets.com's mission is to offer resources that ensure pets are welcome, happy and safe while traveling. The website features a directory of pet-friendly hotels and accommodations across the U.S. and Canada, as well as airline and car rental pet policies; pet-friendly restaurants, beaches and events; a user-friendly route search option; pet travel tips; pet travel supplies; and other pet travel resources.
Author Kim Salerno is the president and founder of TripsWithPets.com. She founded the pet travel site in 2003 and is an expert in the field of pet travel.