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Law, safety dictates securing dog when in back of pickup

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POSTED August 12, 2013 12:59 a.m.

DEAR DIDI:  I was stopped by a Lathrop police officer the other day and he proceeded to lecture me about having my dog in the back of the pickup truck. I tried to explain that I am a rancher and my dog loves being back there but he threatened to give me a ticket if I didn’t listen to his lecture. My dog is my buddy and he goes everywhere with me. He would never jump out of the truck so what, exactly, is the big deal? 
Old Cowboy in Lathrop

DEAR OLD COWBOY:    No one wants to come between a Cowboy and his dog! It is definitely an iconic image representing loyalty, hard work, and perseverance.  It wasn’t long ago, however, that a horse was needed to travel from one side of the farm to the other. Now cars and 4-wheelers are frequently the choice of farmers.  Plowing, tilling and harvesting have also had tremendous improvements in modern times.  Perhaps your dog has travelled with you in the back of your truck your whole life, but it is now time to reevaluate past actions.

Your dog loves being with you. If you are leaving in your truck, then he will want to go with you. If you tell him he can go but, his place is in the bed of the truck, then he will happily take it. He would be equally thrilled to ride in the cab with you. Love is a two-way street, so what does your dog do for you that makes you love him? Is he a working dog that helps you scare off vermin, herd livestock, guard your house, flush out fowl for the hunt, keep you company?  Just like you change the oil in your truck and do maintenance on other equipment around the farm your dog is a tool, in addition, to a loyal friend. Therefore, we must protect the investment in our friend and loyal companion.

Many people believe their dog would never jump from the truck or, at least, they will only try it once! It may only take one time for them to suffer tremendous pain, lose their life, or cause an accident as some unsuspecting motorist desperately tries to avoid your dog as he flies out of the pickup. Even if your boy doesn’t voluntarily leave the safety of the truck, he might lose his balance if you have to swerve or hit a bump suddenly. My favorite veterinarian, Dr. Ayres of Venetian Pet Hospital in Stockton, verified that he sees pickup truck related accidents on a regular basis. Riding around the farm is one thing, but once you leave your property and enter into traffic at higher rates of speed the dog should be left at home or invited into the cab with you.

An excerpt from a 2009 California Law dictates that you can transport a dog in the back of a truck if, “ 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.” The ASPC currently has not endorsed any method of safely tethering a dog to the back of a moving pickup truck. There are just too many things that can go wrong. I personally witnessed a dog fall out of the truck and get dragged for a full block by his ‘tether leash’ before we could flag the driver down. The poor dog was in bad shape and suffering.  Veterinarians also remind us that a dog is at risk for foreign debris lodging in his eyes, high wind currents damaging his delicate ear tissues, or pads of his feet blistering from hot metal truck beds in the summer.  Your dog is at risk of serious bodily harm if you have to slam your brakes on. A dog now becomes a flying missile heading straight for the back window of the truck and possibly your head!

It is likely that the Lathrop police officer has witnessed too many heart wrenching instances of dogs getting hurt or losing their lives because of riding in the back of pickup trucks. He took the time out of his shift to try and enlighten you to newer, better methods so that you, hopefully, won’t ever suffer the loss of your dog due to negligence.  His main goal was not to issue you a ticket, obviously.  Even a crate that is securely tied down is not completely safe because your canine is still  exposed to the elements. Air currents swirl in the beds of trucks and can lead to hypothermia and too much direct sun can lead to heat stroke. You may be saying to yourself, “but none of those things have ever happened to my dog”.  Perhaps you just haven’t taken note of his hurt paws, dwindling hearing and other pains because your loyal canine is so happy to be with you at all costs that he doesn’t complain. It is my hope that you will reconsider an old habit and keep your canine buddy safer, healthier and happy for many years to come!

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