Driving through Payson recently, a disturbing situation caught my attention. A dog was riding loose in the back of a pickup. This is a common sight around here, but it is extremely dangerous. Thousands of dogs are killed each year, either jumping or falling out of the back of trucks. If the fall does not kill them, another vehicle will. But along with the danger of falling from the truck, the temperature on this occasion was close to 100 degrees. That dog had no protection from the sun. I wondered if he was also standing on the burning hot metal surface of the truck bed. I wished the driver could have experienced the heat rather than sitting in air conditioned comfort.
The only safe way to transport your dog in the back of a pickup is to put him in a kennel which is well secured to the sides of the truck. If it is a wire kennel, he will need some sort of protection from rain and sun. The formed plastic kennels offer some protection from the elements. If it is warm, put sun screening over the kennel to keep him cooler. This screening can be purchased at hardware stores by the yard and is not very expensive. Always have water available. There are a variety of water containers that can be secured to the side of a kennel.
Riding loose inside of a vehicle is not safe for pet or for the people either. A recent article in The Arizona Republic, by Bob Golfen, compared the danger of loose dogs and cats in the car to cell phone use. In an insurance survey, 16 percent admitted to near crashes while being distracted by a pet.
In a recent study by the American Automobile Association, it was found that pets and various loose objects tied for third as the worst driver distraction, just behind cell phone use and unruly children.
As much as we do not want to do it, pets in the car need to be restrained. A loose pet in the car becomes a projectile, certainly life threatening for the pet, but also for the people in the car.
There are a variety of devices to keep pets and people safe while on the road. There are pet carriers for small dogs and cats which are secured by the seat belts. There are similar carriers designed for birds on the go.
Barriers are available in sizes to fit vans and SUVs to keep pets safely in the back. Booster seats work quite well for small dogs and cats. They include a harness to secure the pet in the seat.
For larger dogs who want to be in the back seat watching the action and the road, harness and seat belt combinations are available in all sizes. A strap from the harness attaches directly into the receptacle of your vehicle's seat belt. The dog can move around a bit, sit, lie down or stand and yet he is safe and so are the people.
The secret to the value of pet restraints in the car is to use them. That is the biggie. It is easy to just put the dog in the back seat and off you go. We used to do that with our children. Now the law says children have to be properly restrained. Some states have attempted legislation mandating restraints for pets. Many states have laws prohibiting dogs riding free in the back of trucks. We should not wait until it is law before we properly secure our pets while on the road, or until we have an accident. When drivers are distracted by a pet, an unruly child or a cell phone, they are endangering not only themselves and their passengers. but also other drivers on the road. The majority of accidents involve more than one vehicle. Innocent people are often injured and killed due to the carelessness of others.
A neighbor gave me a clipping from a Valley paper. The author of the piece is Vincent Maglio of Mesa. I quote, "I am opposed to any legislation that would require that my dog be restrained in the back of my SUV. If my dog is not allowed to roam freely in the front seat of my car, who is going to steer while I talk on my cell phone?" That about says it all. Be safe. Keep your pets safe.
Christy Powers is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by snail mail at HC 1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.