Reducing the vehicular accident risk to dogs
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2004:
CHAPEL HILL, N.C.–“Dear Abby” advice columnist Jeanne
Phillips, a frequent defender of animals, on August 8, 2004 urged
vehicular restraint–“the kind that buckles”–for dogs as well as
Phillips was responding to a letter entitled “Grieving In
Lexington, Kentucky,” from a man whose dog was killed by traffic
after falling out of the bed of a pickup truck.
Phillips, daughter of column founder Pauline Phillips,
previously urged vehicular restraint of dogs in December 1999 and
University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center
associate director Jane Stutts in 2001 reported that about 1% of all
traffic accidents appear to be caused by an unrestrained dog
distracting a driver.
“That’s not piddly, because cell phones accounted for only
2%,” Stutts told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
According to Stutts’ figures, based on 412 narrative
accounts of accidents that occurred in 1998, unrestrained dogs in
vehicles may be responsible for about 440 human deaths per year.
By comparison, only about 200 people per year are killed in
accidents involving animals in the road, according to Ann Dellinger
of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention motor vehicle injury
“In half of the animal-related road accidents surveyed in
2001 and 2002, motorists were injured by hitting the animal, while
the other half involve animals who swerved to avoid hitting the
animal,” summarized Associated Press writer Daniel Yee.
“There were 247,000 crashes involving animals in 2000, the
latest data available,” said Yee.
A 2003 survey of 1,046 drivers by Response Insurance found
that about 11% admitted to having been distracted by a dog jumping
around in their vehicle, and 16% of them said the dog caused or
nearly caused an accident.
The Massachusetts SPCA reported in 1997 that about 592 dogs
per year are killed or badly injured in falls or jumps from open-bed
trucks. A survey of 200 veterinarians found that 71% had treated
dogs for injuries resulting from falls or jumps from trucks.
A 1999 survey from the West Australian Royal SPCA indicated
that as many as 5,000 dogs are killed or injured per year in falls or
jumps from vehicles in Australia, where letting dogs ride in
open-bed trucks appears to be more common than in the U.S.
Within the U.S., carrying an unrestrained dog in an open
vehicle appears to be specifically illegal only in Maine. In other
states, police may ticket a driver whose dog is allegedly causing a
road hazard, but actual cases are rare.
Legislation to specifically require vehicular restraint of
dogs and other animals in personal vehicles has been proposed in many
other states, several Canadian provinces, and Australia, but has
consistently met fierce opposition from dog keepers.
At least one dog advocate, American Canine Foundation
founder Glen Bui, of Belfair, Washington, is also outspokenly
opposed to requiring humans to use vehicular restraint. Better known
for fighting breed-specific dog dangerous dog laws, Bui lost a 2003
attempt to overturn the Washington state law requiring drivers to
wear seat belts.