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Why Dogs Should Be Restrained In Vehicles

Updated on January 1, 2016
Bob Bamberg profile image

With 30 years in the pet supply industry, Bob's newspaper column deals with animal health, nutrition, behavior, regulation, and advocacy.

Source

It May Be The Law Where You Live

Driving along a busy suburban road recently, I was a couple of vehicles behind a pick-up truck with what appeared to be an unrestrained dog in the bed (unrelated to the picture at right). The driver made a fairly sharp left hand turn which caused the dog to crash against the side of the truck.

It's likely that a taller dog would have tumbled out of the truck. Even if he had been tied in, it would have resulted in a hanging episode that could have proved fatal. The fact is, having the dog tied-up in the back of a pick-up may or may not comply with the law in your area.

In many states, including Massachusetts, New Hampshire, California, Maine, Oregon, Washington, Florida and Rhode Island, dogs must be cross-tethered in the backs of pick-up trucks, which means that tie lines from the dog's collar or harness must be attached to both sides of the truck. Truck tie-outs, which accomplish that, can be purchased wherever you buy pet supplies.

Dogs falling, or jumping, from the backs of moving trucks receive horrendous injuries that frequently result in death. Those that do survive suffer head injuries, fractures, severe abrasions, or degloving injuries, in which skin and muscle are torn from the bone.

Recovery, when it is an option, is slow, painful, and not always complete. Quite often the injuries are so severe that the only humane choice is euthanasia.

The way a dog like to ride.
The way a dog like to ride. | Source
The way a dog should ride when allowed to ride with his head out the window.
The way a dog should ride when allowed to ride with his head out the window. | Source

Dogs riding in the backs of trucks, or in cars and with their heads hanging out of a window, are subject to other types of injuries, too.

A common one is imbedded foreign bodies. Particles of sand or other debris, traveling at high speeds because of the forward motion of the car, become imbedded in eyes, nasal passages, tongues and mouths.

A less common one is the head smacking against the outside mirror on a parked car, or another object.

We’ve all seen people driving with their dog in their lap. Fun to do, but really not a good idea.

Inside the car, an unrestrained dog is a safety hazard.

Moving about, the dog can block vision, restrict steering ability, and interfere with the driver working the foot pedals.

If he sees another dog, a cyclist or something else that triggers an aggressive or fear response, he can go ballistic in the car and cause serious problems for the driver.

Some states have laws that expressly prohibit unrestrained dogs in cars while other states use a catch-all provision that prohibits anything in or on the vehicle that "may interfere with or impede the proper operation of the vehicle."

All this doesn't mean you have to leave the dog at home when you run out to do errands or go on a trip. It does mean that you need to properly restrain him.

And bring his leash along so that you don't have to leave him in the car while you run to the ATM machine. It doesn't have to be a blazing hot summer day for a dog to overheat or at least experience discomfort in a parked car, even on a warm day.

Pet supply stores, some veterinarians, even some trainers and groomers sell pet restraint devices that work in conjunction with your car's seat belts. They allow the dog to sit up or lie down, but restrict his mobility.

If you have a station wagon or SUV, you can buy barriers designed specifically for those types of vehicles. They consist of wire grids with adjustable horizontal and vertical bars that lock against the floor, ceiling and side walls of the cargo area of the vehicle. You can even buy an extension that attach to the bottom of the barrier. It enables you to fold down the seat back and it will prevent your dog from crawling under the barrier.

Another option is to use a crate or carrier in the cargo area. A crate is a box with wire grid floor, ceiling and sides; a carrier is a solid sided, molded plastic box with a wire mesh door and vent holes in the sides and sometimes the back.

A carrier should only be used on errand runs or other short trips, though. With limited ventilation and visibility, a long trip could be uncomfortable for the dog and might create an aversion that would cause him to resist going into the carrier for trips to the vet, etc.

There are some really nice crates available that are collapsible. They're built in one piece and fold-up like a suitcase for easy carrying and storage. And dogs, being natural denning animals, generally accept crating quite readily.


For many dogs, all you have to say is, "Wanna go for a ride?" and they're beside themselves with excitement.

They love being with you, they love being in the car, but you've got to think of safety.

For you, the dog, pedestrians and other drivers, it would be a good idea to familiarize yourself, and comply, with the laws in your area.

HOW DOES YOUR DOG TRAVEL IN YOUR CAR OR TRUCK

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    • Bob Bamberg profile image
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      Bob Bamberg 10 months ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi Pat, thanks for taking the time to stop by and comment. Your family sure has a full plate, but the strength and courage you all demonstrate is inspiring. Please let everyone know we're sending our love and prayers. Tell Heston Wayne I said, "Hang in there, dude, you're doing great!!"

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 10 months ago from sunny Florida

      You are so correct...I cringe every time I come upon a truck with pups in the back, bumping along....surely the folks who are their 'loves' do care about them but they just do not think, I suppose.

      I wanted to stop and wish you a special Happy New Year and thank you so very much for your concern and the "pennies" you have sent for Heston Wayne. He continues his struggle as does his Momma and brother. We are so very blessed to have the concern and caring coming across this amazing nation to us. May God bless each of you in your family each day.

      Thank you again ...we do so very much appreciate you.

      Angels are once again on the way. Love, ps

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
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      Bob Bamberg 2 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      You're right, sujaya venkatesh, and I hope they do, for everyone's safety. Thanks for stopping by.

    • sujaya venkatesh profile image

      sujaya venkatesh 2 years ago

      dog companions need to note

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
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      Bob Bamberg 2 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      It's so easy to be safe, isn't it, Susan? I feel that, like Daisy, all dogs would be comfortable being restrained but not "tied down" in a moving vehicle. Everyone should follow your practice. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 2 years ago from Arkansas USA

      It just makes me sick to see an unrestrained dog in the back of a pickup truck or even hanging halfway out the car window. Our dog, Daisy, rides with us, restrained with a doggy seat belt so she can move around within a limited area in the back seat, and she's quite comfortable with that - and everyone stays safe.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
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      Bob Bamberg 2 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      You're, right, Amanda, and laws can vary from state to state. And, I would guess that some states are more diligent about enforcing the law than others.

      I see a lot of people driving with dogs in their laps, so it doesn't appear that enforcing the law is a priority here. Also, if people were being given tickets for obstructed driving, there'd be some buzz about it, but I don't hear anything. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • amanda5577 profile image

      Amanda 2 years ago from Michigan

      This is definitely an important topic for all pet owners. Not only is it unsafe to not have your dog secured properly, it can also be illegal in some places. Where I live, if you have dogs unsecured in the bed of a truck you can be fined. If the dog happened to be aggressive and hurt someone while unattended, the dog can be seized and either labeled as a dangerous dog or in extreme cases put to sleep. Voted up, thanks for posting!

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
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      Bob Bamberg 2 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      I'm with you, Jeannieinabottle. The few times I do see dogs in the back of pick ups, they never seem to be tied in. Being quadrupeds probably gives them more stability in a moving vehicle than we bipeds have, but they're still subject to being slammed around or ejected. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • Jeannieinabottle profile image

      Jeannie InABottle 2 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      I always get so nervous when I see a dog in the back of a truck and completely unrestrained. I don't care how well a dog is trained, he could still jump out for some reason or go flying if the driver stops suddenly. I've heard horror stories of dogs dying that way. I wish people would stop doing that!

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
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      Bob Bamberg 2 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      It is unbelievable, Mary. I can't remember what I had for dinner last night, but I remember Baby's name. Give her a hug and a chin scratch for me!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 2 years ago from Florida

      Hi, Bob.....I can't believe you remembered my doggie's name!! Baby sends her best, and says, "Thanks"!

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
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      Bob Bamberg 2 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hello, Mary, really nice to see you...been a while. I salute Baby for her disciplined travel ethic! She's unusual in that sense...most dogs like to be half hanging out the window. Glad you stopped by, especially since you brought some votes and shares with you :) Thanks for commenting.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
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      Bob Bamberg 2 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi, ladyguitarpicker, nice to see you over here in "heathenville :) ." We chatted after your hub on atheists/agnostics. I don't think the police do much to enforce those laws here, either, Stella. I don't see many dogs in the beds of pickups, but I do see a lot in the laps of drivers. You don't hear a lot about accidents being blamed on dogs on laps...but people don't admit they were on the phone, applying make up, or shaving, either. I just think that's such a dangerous practice. Thanks for the comment, votes and shares.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 2 years ago from Florida

      My small Min. Schnauzer has always ridden in the car with me. She loves to go bye-bye. She lays down in the floorboard and doesn't get up until I stop the car. She never even looks out the window when we are moving.

      Great Hub. Voted UP, and shared.

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 2 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      Hi Bob, I think I read that dogs in Florida must be tied in the back of a pickup. Thats wonderful if the people around here would do it. I have seen many dogs fall and some standing on the tool box fall. I have a restraint for my dogs so they have to stay seated in the back. I wish the police would enforce the law. Thanks for a useful and good hub. shared and voted up Stella

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
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      Bob Bamberg 2 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi, ps, thanks for stopping by. My condolences on the passing of your nephew and my thoughts are with your sister. I can't imagine the grief of losing a child. It's always been one of my biggest fears, even now. We're not supposed to outlive them.

      I'm glad you agree that the column is helpful. Many people think that because they have 4 legs and we only have 2, dogs won't have the same difficulty we have keeping upright in a moving vehicle. They would find it less challenging, but they would still topple. Thanks for the votes and shares. Regards, Bob

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 2 years ago from sunny Florida

      Thank you so much for sharing this . I think that sometimes even people that really love their pets do not think about this safety issue.

      My sister inherited my nephews two pups 3 years ago when he died suddenly. He had always let the pups roam in the van and the one pup liked to sit behind his neck. Well my sister did this until recently but she is so much shorter than he was that having the pup behind her was very dangerous to all.

      So she has purchased pup restraints and now everyone is safer.

      thanks again for sharing this.

      Voted up+++ and shared

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
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      Bob Bamberg 3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      I don't often see dogs in the backs of pick-ups, Relationshipc, but I see dogs in drivers' laps all the time. My neighbor told me she once saw a woman driving with a dog in her lap and a cell phone to her ear! I have a feeling the police in my area don't enforce this law too readily. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • Relationshipc profile image

      Kari 3 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      Excellent article. I get so upset when I see dogs in the back of trucks and running around in cars. I often see dogs in the back of the truck when they would easily fit in the cab with a restraint. I should add this to my list of people who shouldn't own dogs hub.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
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      Bob Bamberg 3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      I wasn't aware of that, Jackie, thanks for the heads up. It's also a fine looking feather in your cap. I've been AFK recently because of work and the fact that we're getting ready to put our place on the market, so I appreciate the extra eyes. Thanks for stopping by.

      They also get those injuries from having their head out the window while the car is moving, TotalHealth. I think the truck folks figure the dog is protected by the cab, but if you've ever ridden in a convertible with the top down, you know there's a strong wind on the back of your head. Dogs in the back of pick ups also experience that phenomenon. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • TotalHealth profile image

      TotalHealth 3 years ago from Hermosa Beach, CA

      Informative hub! My vet once told me one of the most common injuries that dogs suffer when riding in the back of trucks results from foreign debris such as small particulate and bugs hitting their eyes. Of course, this is not too hard to imagine given people wear protective eyewear when riding motorcycles or bicycles for this very reason, among others. ~ Voted up.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Don't know if you are aware of the hublove section "Spreading hublove featured hubs" but your hug is near the top of that. Thought you might want to know.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
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      Bob Bamberg 3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Nice to see you, Audrey! It's coincidental that you commented at this time because I saw a head-shaking example yesterday. I was driving to work as our snowstorm was winding down, roads had been treated but were still treacherous, and through her steamed up windows, I saw a woman driving with a dog in her lap and a cigarette dangling from her mouth! I'm pleased you liked the article and thank you for the votes and sharing.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 3 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      This is a law that should strictly be enforced in every state. You have provided excellent reasons for a 'buckle up' for our dogs. Love this article and will pass it on. Voted Up, useful, awesome, interesting and of course - sharing. ~ Audrey

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
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      Bob Bamberg 3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      I don't think the law is strictly enforced around here, Jackie, because I see it all the time...especially people driving with dogs in their laps! I really think that's a dangerous practice. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, voting and sharing.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Up and sharing. This is a good law and glad it is starting to catch on. I am not one to tote a dog around but it has always made me cringe to see dogs on backs of trucks free to jump out at anything that may get their interest. I have to mention I have also seen children or young people in the back of pick-ups sometimes in summer and how on earth do they ever get by with that? All I can do is hope they are not going far.

      The cross tie would be a great idea for a dog and probably a more comfortable ride!