Downeast Dog News

Safe Travels

By Judith K. Herman DVM, CVH | Jul 01, 2021

Q. I just followed a truck with a dog loose in the back. He almost fell out when the driver made a turn. Is this legal?

A. Under the statute of Motor Vehicle and Transportation, MRS title 29-A paragraph 2087, this topic is discussed. It addresses dogs riding in an open vehicle, meaning a motor vehicle with a portion of the vehicle not enclosed by a top and windows or sides, includes, but not limited to, pickup trucks and convertibles.

It states: “A person driving an open vehicle may not transport a dog in the open portion of that vehicle on a public way unless the dog is protected in a manner that prevents the dog from falling or jumping or being thrown from the vehicle. Exception to this rule is a dog being transported by a farmer or a farm employee who is engaged in agricultural activities requiring the services of the dog, or a hunting dog at a hunting site or being transported between hunting sites by a licensed hunter who is in possession of all applicable licenses and permits for the species being pursued during the legal season for that activity.”

What is allowed to transport a dog in the back of a pickup is either a secured crate or a double tether set up, one tether on each side of the truck bed, so the dog can’t fall out but can sit and lie down. In convertibles, the dog should be seat belted in with a harness.

As a veterinarian I have treated my share of dogs falling out of the back of a pickup or being dragged because there was only one tether. Broken bones and road burns are horribly painful injuries that can be prevented.

What about regular cars and SUVs? Dogs love to have their head out the window as the car zooms down the road. There are a few concerns here too. First, the number of eye injuries and infections dogs acquire from riding with their heads out the window is very common. I have seen dogs lean out the window so far that they fall out, or the dog sees something and jumps out while the car is moving.

Then we have Bozo who leaps into the front seat because he wants to ride shot gun or into the driver’s lap. Many folks have dogs in the front passenger seat while they drive. The concern here is what if you stop short? If your dog is loose in the car and you are in an accident, your best friend can be thrown forward, through the windshield, or injured by the airbags.

Today we have many more options to travel safely with your best friend. There are many harnesses that clip to the center seatbelt in the back. Crates and dog car barriers of many styles are available too. They vary in price and safety, so do your homework and find the one that fits your dog’s needs.

Traveling with your dog is the best. Now do it safely.


Judith K. Herman DVM, CVH

Animal Wellness Center

Augusta, Maine