Your Dog Does Not Belong in the Back of the Truck

Picture of dogs in the back of a old truck

How many times have you been driving down the road when you see a dog riding in the back of a truck? Maybe he has people sitting with him, but maybe not. He sways from side to side trying to keep his balance. All it would take is for the driver to slam on his brakes and the dog could go flying. The result could be injury or worse.

Dogs in trucks: numbers

There was a recent news story circulating from the American Humane organization that claimed some 100,000 dogs per year are killed due to riding in the back of trucks. This number seemed rather high so we contacted American Humane to ask about the source of their statistics. Unfortunately, they did not reply.

According to one source, reports that thousands of dogs are killed each year riding in the back of pickup trucks. However, we searched the web site and couldn’t find any statistics relating to this subject.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) published a peer-reviewed summary, “Dogs Traveling in Truck Beds,” in 2007. From their summary:

Injuries incurred by dogs falling or jumping from truck beds or falling within truck beds are less common than injuries incurred by free-roaming dogs struck by vehicles. However, like injuries resulting from vehicular strikes, truck bed injuries tend to be severe and multiple and include fractures and abrasions.,  survey of veterinarians in Massachusetts found 141 practitioners (71% of those surveyed) had treated a total of 592 dogs that year that were injured as a result of riding in a truck bed. Data relating to dogs are limited, but data collected regarding human truck bed passengers indicate they are at significantly greater risk of injury than passengers riding in the cab. Riding in a truck bed may place dogs in contact with shifting loads sufficient to cause injuries and, if the truck bed is uncovered, expose them to road dust, debris, and heated metal surfaces.

If we take the AVMA’s data as typical, one state (Massachusetts) reported injuries for approximately 600 dogs in a year and the injuries tended to be severe. Information on dog deaths isn’t provided. If the information is extrapolated to 50 states, that would be approximately 30,000 dogs injured from riding in truck beds per year. It’s impossible to make assumptions about the number of dogs killed from riding in trucks based on this evidence but it’s likely that there are some dog fatalities.


According to the AVMA and other sources, some of the risks to dogs from riding unsecured in the back of pickup trucks include:

  • Dirt, debris, and gravel can be sprayed in your dog’s face and eyes;
  • According to AAA, an unrestrained 10-pound dog in a crash at 50 mph will exert roughly 500 pounds of force, while an unrestrained 80-pound dog in a crash at only 30 mph will exert approximately 2400 pounds of force. Any dog can be seriously injured in a crash, especially if he’s unrestrained;
  • A dog thrown from a truck bed is at risk of broken bones, and gravel and road burn.
  • In the worst cases, a dog can be fatally injured if he falls from a truck bed.


The following states have laws that prevent dogs from riding in open trucks, at least on highways:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island

There can be exceptions for local travel. These laws don’t usually apply to farmers and people driving on private roads.

Keeping your dog safe if you have a truck

There are some safer ways to travel with your dog if you have a truck.

If your dog is riding in the front cab of your truck, he has the same risks as you when it comes to traffic  accidents. Harnesses or safety restraints are recommended for dogs that ride in the cab. A safety harness can also limit your dog’s ability to distract you or interfere with your driving. It can minimize injuries to you and your dog if you have an accident.

Other alternatives include a tether for dogs that ride in the back of the truck. The AVMA notes that tethers raise the risk of tangling, choking, or even allowing the dog to be dragged behind the vehicle so this is not an ideal solution.

Some owners confine their dog in the back of the truck in a kennel or crate. If this method is used it’s important to have a kennel that gives your dog enough space to stand up and lie down but that’s not so large that your dog could be tossed around from one side of the crate to the other. The crate must also have plenty of ventilation and protection from the elements.

You can also use a kennel or carrier for your dog and place it in the cab of your truck. This method works well if you have a larger cab and you can place it behind your seats.

We are aware of the fact that not everyone has a small dog. It can be harder to put larger dogs in kennels and crates that comfortably fit in the cab of a truck. In these cases you would probably be better off using a harness, if possible.


Thousands of dogs riding in truck beds are severely injured each year and many die. These accidents can be avoided. If you have a pickup truck, we recommend that your dog ride up front in the cab with you. Use a harness as a safety restraint for your dog, if possible. A crate or kennel can also be a good choice. Please consider your dog’s safety when you drive.



One Response

  1. I am glad to see someone else question the 100,000 claim American Humane stated. As a curious person and former journalist it just didn’t ring true. Just as you saw, I saw the repeated stories with the one source for the statistics and I also read the American Veterinary Medical Association’s report which is supported with some facts and sources. Thank you for doing this blog!

    Matt Irvin

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