Traveling dogs belong in crates, not truck beds

I love pets and taking proper care of them shows that love.

But driving around the other day, I happened across a yellow pickup with a couple of German shepherds romping around in back, competing for space with a cooler and a large toolbox.

It's not an unusual sight. I'm sure you've seen dogs of all breeds and sizes being tossed around the back of pickup trucks, struggling for footing when the driver jerks and lurches the vehicle around without concern for his or her "best friend."

Inevitably, I always end up idling at a red light behind one of these trucks with Cujo slobbering and barking at me like it's my fault he's traveling in baggage class on an airplane.

And I've had this conversation numerous times before with pet owners who have argued that dogs have an innate sense of balance and agility.

Huh? I'd love to see these self-proclaimed experts test their agility on the back of a flatbed truck at the posted speed limit.

It's irresponsible, cruel and in some places illegal to transport an animal in the back of a pickup. Adding insult to injury is that proper kennels are available for just such a use, and at an affordable price ... certainly cheaper than Cujo's vet bill.

Now, I'm not an expert on pets either, so I might not fully understand what you can/cannot and should/should not do with your fuzzy friend. But I can't believe that being tossed around in the back of a truck, with the potential for being turned into a canine cannonball, is a smart idea, regardless of how large, balanced, talented or blessed with a superheroic ability to defy gravity your dog is.

So who would better know the sad tales than veterinarian Eddie Valdosta? He says he has probably treated more than 200 dogs in almost eight years that were harmed as a result of falling or jumping from a moving vehicle.

The animals that actually survive such accidents suffer multiple fractures, abdominal and/or thoracic trauma and severe cuts and bruises.

"In too many instances, dogs that do survive a fall are hit, and usually killed, by other vehicles traveling close behind," he says.

While we all had a chuckle when the police pulled over Clark Griswold in the movie "Vacation," only to find a dangling leash tied to the rear bumper, real life is quite another horrifying story.

Tethering your dog's leash to any part of the automobile is dangerous at best, and fatal at worst, says Dr. Ed, because dogs that jump or fall can choke or be dragged alongside the vehicle.

Even if the pooch doesn't fall (thanks to that whole balance and agility thing, I suppose), the hot sun can turn a truck bed into big frying pan, cooking your pooch's paws. And, of course, dogs riding in the hot sun, without shade, could suffer from heatstroke.

And it gets worse.

"Several studies ... indicate that covering the bed of the pickup with a tarp or shell may expose dogs, or other passengers, to potentially lethal carbon monoxide poisoning."

Other health concerns, such as corneal ulcers, might occur as a result of debris or bugs being blown into a pet's eyes when vehicles are traveling at high speeds.

If you don't have a travel kennel (they lock to the bed so they don't slide around), vet Valdosta has a few words of advice.

"The safest way for an animal to travel is inside the cab of the truck with its owner.

"If it's impossible to do so, then you should leave your pet in the safety of your home."

While we ponder Dr. Ed's words of wisdom, here's another. Bounding dogs in the back of trucks is a distraction to other drivers, who should be paying attention to the road and not someone's pet.

I should know. This whole column is the result of it.

Among her numerous accomplishments, Courtney Hansen is the author of her own book, the host of Spike TV's "PowerBlock," the former host of TLC's "Overhaulin' " and a writer with Wheelbase Communications. You can e-mail her by logging on to and clicking the contact link.