Dogs Riding in Truck Beds

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Is It Illegal in Utah for Animals to Ride Unrestrained on Flatbed Trucks? 

 
Unfortunately, it is perfectly legal for an animal to ride unrestrained on the flatbed of a truck in the state of Utah. Though not illegal, it is incredibly dangerous for the animal and other motorists. The Humane Society of Utah adamantly opposes this practice and urges drivers to find an alternative way to transport their animals, such as a fully secured crate or, even better, inside the cab of the truck. 
 

Background

Many of us have seen the horrifying sight on a highway in Utah: a dog, unrestrained, attempting to balance on the bed of a pickup or the flatbed of a semi truck as the vehicle careens down the highway at a high rate of speed. As unnerving and seemingly dangerous as this practice is, it is not illegal in Utah. Though many states ban animals from traveling unrestrained on flatbed trucks or in the bed of pickup trucks, Utah does not. In the past, there have been multiple attempts to pass legislation to ban this practice, but each has failed despite strong support from animal welfare and law enforcement communities. 
 

Legal Doesn’t Mean Safe

Legality does not equal safety. According to American Humane, it is estimated that at least 100,000 dogs die in accidents each year due to riding unrestrained in truck beds. This amount does not take into account the number of humans who are injured or killed due to the distraction caused by seeing an unrestrained dog on the highway. The CDC estimates that nine people are killed and 1,000 are injured each day in the United States due to distractions while driving. Improperly transporting an animal is dangerous for the animal and for the humans on the road. 
 

The Point At Which This Becomes Illegal

Though leaving an animal on a truck bed while in motion is legal, what is illegal is causing injury to an animal intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence. If an individual causes injury or death to an animal by traveling with the animal unrestrained in a truck bed, that individual could face misdemeanor animal cruelty charges, regardless of the legality of traveling with an unrestrained animal in a truck bed. A single count of misdemeanor animal cruelty can cause an individual to face up to 364 days in jail and fines up to $2,500. There is no reason to risk your animal’s safety, or your freedom and finances, by transporting an animal improperly. 
 

Keeping Your Animal Safe While Traveling by Vehicle 

The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends the following to keep your animals safe while traveling by vehicle: 
  • Do not let your animal ride unrestrained. 
    • The AVMA recommends never allowing an animal to travel in a cargo area of a vehicle, such as the bed of a truck. Cargo areas are unsuitable for animals due to a lack of protection from the weather, including heat than can burn paw pads and cause heatstroke. 
      • If you absolutely must travel with your animal in a cargo area, the animal should be contained in a properly secured, size-appropriate kennel that is appropriately ventilated and allows climatic conditions suitable for the pet’s species, breed and conditioning to be maintained.
      • Leashing or tethering an animal in a truck bed is dangerous, as the animal may be strangled if he jumps or is knocked out of the truck’s bed. 
    • Animals should not be allowed to ride on the driver's lap or near the driver's feet. 
    • Small animals should be confined in crates or travel-safe beds, and larger animals should be appropriately restrained with harnesses attached to the car's seat belts.
    • Cats should always be transported in carriers.
  • Do not allow your animal to ride with their head or paws outside the window.
    • Dirt and other debris can enter their eyes, ears, and nose and cause injury or infection. 
    • Paws can also be injured by debris, severe weather, or passing vehicles. 
 

Advocating for Safe Transport for Animals

Though the state of Utah does not have a law restricting animals from traveling in the bed of a truck, your local municipality may. Find out what your local ordinance is for transporting animals by checking out your city’s code webpage or by calling your local animal control. If your city doesn’t have a local ordinance and you want to get one on the books to further protect companion animals in your city, contact us at advocacy@utahhumane.org. We are happy to guide you on how to go about making that change. 
 
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