Guest Column | The Cost of Freedom

Safety issues for dogs riding in the back of pick-ups

By Dr. Barbara Swahlen

It is a common sight on the roads of our beautiful, rural Lopez Island, to see dogs riding “free” in the back of open-bed trucks.  As a veterinarian who has treated dozens of dogs who rode unrestrained in the back of their owners’ trucks, I can say that the cost of this freedom can be painful, expensive, and often deadly.

Nearly every time I advise someone not to put his dog in the back of the open-bed truck, I’m told, “Oh, he won’t jump out.”

The idea of having to slam on the brakes, swerve to avoid a deer or a bicyclist, or the possibility of being hit by another car, just doesn’t enter the pet owner’s mind.

Most dogs, which have the unfortunate experience of being launched from the back of a pick-up, end up with severe, life threatening injuries, if they live at all.  Many are euthanized because of untreatable, internal damage.  Others are put down because their owners can’t afford the cost of repairing their injuries.  Some fractures require special orthopedic surgery that can run into the thousands.  All of these are painful traumas that could have been prevented.

It’s also not a good idea to tie your pet to a rope that is tied in the back of your truck.  Countless canines have flown out of pick-ups and been dragged along the pavement, suffering severe and painful injuries.

Other dogs have actually been hung and strangled.  They dangled over the side of the truck, while the driver was unaware that his best friend had become an airborne projectile.

If there is absolutely no room in the cab for your dog and she must ride in the back of an open-bed truck, before you tell her to “Load up,” securely fasten your dog’s crate to the truck bed and have your dog ride inside the crate.  You will enjoy the peace of mind in knowing that your best friend is safely traveling with you to your next destination. And peace of mind is well worth the price.

Dr. Barbara Swahlen is the owner of Community Animal Health, a house and farm call practice providing veterinary care for pets and large animals here on Lopez Island.