Animal Tales: Transporting loose dogs in pickup bed is illegal, dangerous

Question: Is it illegal to transport dogs loose in the back of open-bed pickup trucks?

Answer: Yes! Washington state is one of many states where allowing your dog or pet to travel loose in the back of an open truck bed is illegal.

RCW 16.52.080 states: Any person who willfully transports or confines or causes to be transported or confined any domestic animal or animals in a manner, posture, or confinement that will jeopardize the safety of the animal or the public shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Transporting your dog unrestrained in the back of an open truck bed can result in a $250 fine and is further enforceable through some local city ordinances as well.

Sadly, many people don’t see the problem with traveling with unrestrained dogs in open truck beds. However, the reality is much different. An estimated 100,000 dogs across the country are injured or killed annually as a result of falling out of, jumping from or being accidentally thrown from the back of trucks. If the dog does survive the initial impact, serious injuries like broken bones, head trauma, road rash and severe joint pain are common.

Many drivers report they didn’t even notice their pet missing until they arrived at their destination and discovered an empty truck bed. Often, motorists hit these animals or cause further accidents while trying to veer away.

Even if your dog stays in the truck bed, road dirt and debris such as gravel and insects can lodge in your dog’s ears, eyes and nose. Constant wind can cause damage to your dog’s eyes. On hot days, the metal, vinyl and rubber on the truck bed can burn the pads on your dog’s feet.

If travel in the back of an open truck bed is necessary for your dog, there are a couple ways you can safely and legally transport the animal. Secure a dog crate in the truck bed so it can’t slip, slide or tip over. Make sure there is proper ventilation, as the crate will get hot in warmer weather. A secure, cross-tether harness is another option. A regular leash, rope or chain is not, as they do not and will not prevent your dog from falling or jumping out of the truck and possibly being dragged or strangled behind the vehicle.

Of course, the easiest and safest solution for transporting dogs in trucks is to travel with your dog inside the cab of the truck or purchase a canopy so your dogs or other pets can safely travel with you.

Information about wind damage to dogs' eyes was corrected April 13, 2015.