Picture this. A dog eagerly jumps up into a truck bed, excited to go on an outing. As the truck cruises down the road, the dog is the quintessential image of canine joy: ears flapping in the wind and tongue lolling to the side…
…Until the truck slams on its breaks to avoid a collision, swerves to miss an obstacle in the road, slams into another vehicle, or the dog simply leaps from the truck, lured by a distraction. Thrown from the truck, she dies from impact or from being struck by traffic.
What if she was tethered? The collar became a noose. If the lead was long enough for the dog to reach the ground, she was then dragged on the road or run over by her owner.
Only Takes Once
Many years may have gone by without mishap. However, it only takes once for the idyllic scene to be shattered, with the consequences far outweighing the thrill of the ride.
A Lucky Dog
According to the American Humane Association, 100,000 dogs are killed each year in accidents as a result of riding in truck beds.
That 100,000 doesn’t include injuries. If the dog is “lucky” enough to survive, possible injuries include broken bones and spines; joint injuries requiring amputations; head, abdominal, and thoracic trauma; road rash so severe that skin is stripped away; internal injuries to organs; and, serious cuts and bruising.
A Deadly Chain Reaction
Then it’s a matter of whether the owner has deep enough pockets to cover the ensuing surgeries and medical treatment, with the price tag for veterinary care running into thousands of dollars, depending on the severity and length of treatment. Even then, the dog may not recover to full health.
The issue extends beyond the dog’s welfare too. A dog flying from a truck or running loose on the road is a public safety concern. If the dog lands on another driver’s windshield, the passengers in that vehicle might be killed or maimed. Cars swerving or striking the dog can cause a chain reaction, resulting in death, injury and property damage to others – all because “the dog liked going for rides” or “there wasn’t room in the cab.”
Some states ban the travel of unsecured dogs in truck beds. Not Utah, of course. For example, in Washington, the law states “It shall be unlawful for any person to transport any living animal on the running board, fenders, hood, or other outside part of any vehicle unless suitable harness, cage or enclosure be provided and so attached as to protect such animal from falling or being thrown therefrom.”
Have You Driven a Ford Lately?
The Ford Motor Company is weighing in on the issue, encouraging drivers of its trucks to keep all passengers safe. The recommendations include:
- Have animals ride inside the cab, preferably in the back seat (if available) where the odds of being injured or a distraction are less
- When possible, crate the dog or use a dog harness and seatbelt to secure her
- Never leave a dog unattended in a vehicle
Doug Scott, truck marketing manager with Ford, says, “We’re not asking people to go to onerous lengths while driving with pets.”
If the dog MUST be in the back, no harness is considered adequately safe. Crates are an option in warm weather, if securely tied down.
Painting a Prettier Picture
Of course, riding upfront is still a joyous event for a dog.
Picture this instead: A dog eagerly jumps into a truck cab, happy to be close to her loved one and on another adventure, heading for a destination where she will safely arrive.
Picture perfect, if you ask me.
 Utah is one of the few states that fails to restrict humans from riding in truck beds too. However, according to the Utah Department of Public Safety: “It’s much better if people ride inside the cab of the truck and use safety belts.”
First published in Pets in the City Magazine, March 2014