You’re driving down the road, windows open, hair blowing in the wind and music blaring. It’s a gorgeous, sunny day that’s absolutely perfect for a road trip. The second your favorite song comes on, you feel like you could drive for days.
Until you spot something that puts a knot in your stomach — someone’s dog is freely riding in the bed of their pickup truck. Not only that, but also you see the driver look down to switch the radio station, only to swerve away from the curb after looking back up. The dog, of course, bumps hard into the side of the truck bed, almost losing their balance. The sight makes you cringe.
What do you do? I mean, there must be a law against something like this, right?
The straight answer is yes, there are laws against driving with dogs in the back of pickup trucks. Unfortunately, those laws are sparse and certainly not all-encompassing.
According to the Animal Legal and Historical Center, as of 2017, only 5 U.S. states have laws in place to keep dogs out of truck beds:
- New Hampshire
- Rhode Island
Even in those states, though, there are exceptions to the law. For the most part, the laws prevent dogs from riding in open truck beds on highways (though there are exceptions if they’re restrained in certain ways).
For farmers or people driving with their dogs on private roads, though, those rules don’t usually apply.
DMV.org reports that thousands of dogs are killed each year riding in the back of pickup trucks. And that number doesn’t even account for all the injuries that don’t lead to deaths.
You know how gravel and dirt sometimes spray onto your windshield, resulting in tiny cracks in the glass? A dog riding in a truck bed is susceptible to that same gravel and dirt spray. If it’s forceful enough to crack a windshield, there’s no doubt it can easily harm a dog’s eyes, nose or even lungs if it’s breathed in.
Of course, there are also more obvious consequences, like a dog being thrown from the truck (or being slammed against the back of the cab) if the driver slams on the brakes or swerves.
Whether an ejected dog hits pavement or even a pedestrian, the force would be deadly. To be exact, it would be 500 pounds if a 10-pound dog was thrown from a truck going 50 miles per hour. And it would be 2,400 pounds if an 80-pound dog was ejected from a truck driving 30 miles per hour.
You might be thinking, what’s there to argue with? Why on earth would someone want a dog to ride in the back of a truck? Some farmers, however, feel like their rights are being stripped.
Take Jon Parks, for example, a farmer who thought new laws back in 2014 were disrupting his working lifestyle. His dog, named Pupdog, lived and worked outdoors on the farm 24 hours a day. A law telling Jon to drive with Pupdog in his truck’s cab seemed ridiculous. After all, Pupdog wasn’t the best-smelling passenger.
To farmers like Jon, putting a dog in the bed makes sense. They don’t want to get their cabs dirty, sure, but is cleaning a cab not an easily accepted trade-off for potentially saving a life?
Dara DeBruin thinks so. When she witnessed the aftermath of a dog being thrown from a truck and left dead in the middle of the road, she felt helpless. With the law refusing to take her side, she decided to start a petition instead.
States have been slow to take action over the years, though. That resistance to change can make fights like Dara’s seem endless.
Unfortunately, petitioning, raising public awareness and contacting local government are some of the only options to combat this life-threatening practice.
Be smart and keep your pets safe when they ride in the car:
How Dogs Can Ride Safely
Dogs are no different from human passengers in a car, and if people are required to wear seat belts, pets should, too.
Drivers of pickup trucks should always ride with their dogs in the cab and strap them to the seat with a dog-friendly car restraint.
Yes, there are ways to secure crates to a truck bed, but even then, gravel and dirt could potentially damage a dog’s ears, eyes and throat. And yes, there are ways to cross-tether a dog in a truck bed to prevent them from falling or jumping, but the same dangers remain.
The only real solution when taking your dog for a ride, no matter what kind of vehicle, is to safely secure them with a dog car seat or harness (preferably in the back seat to prevent distractions).
Taking that extra step might delay the trip by a few minutes. But isn’t potentially saving lives worth it?