MOUNT PLEASANT - Sixteen-year-old Megan Herlihy remembers how sad she felt eight years ago when a neighbor's puppy was thrown from the back of a pickup truck, suffered serious injuries and eventually had to be put down.
That's a big reason why the Ashley Hall junior recently appeared before Town Council to urge it to pass a law requiring owners to secure their dogs.
Council members were reluctant to grant her wish, but Herlihy vows to keep trying.
And she could get some additional support. No one has a precise count of the number of dogs killed or injured in such accidents, but it's a high number, said Joe Elmore, director of the Charleston Animal Society.
Elmore, who drives a pickup and secures his three dogs in crates in the pickup bed, said South Carolina is trailing the country in tackling this problem.
"All you've got to do is get a crate - and crates aren't that expensive. If you don't, you're irresponsible and you're lazy," he said. "You can't argue with me that this is a cultural thing or this is a Southern thing because you don't get any more Bubba than me."
Like texting and driving
Mayor Linda Page praised Herlihy's presentation and chatted with her in the hallway afterward. Page said her golden retriever Peaches once fell from a pickup and broke a leg.
Still, she said she was hesitant to pass an ordinance.
"Part of it is an enforcement issue," she said. "It's similar to texting and driving."
Town Council members long agreed that texting and driving is dumb and dangerous, but it debated the issue for several months before finally passing an ordinance to outlaw it.
The hesitancy? Some members thought the ban should be statewide, not town by town, while others questioned how police would crack down.
Town Attorney David Pagliarini said the town already has general laws against animal cruelty and mistreatment, and Police Chief Carl Ritchie said he could not recall recent incidents of dogs being killed after being ejected from a pickup.
Councilman Elton Carrier said he did not want to over-legislate the issue.
"It seems a leash or tether could cause as much of a problem if the animal were to jump out and get dragged," he said. "That bothers me as much as him roaming free back there."
'It's common sense'
North Charleston passed such an ordinance in 2006 with little fanfare. It says "any animal that is being transported in the bed of a pickup truck shall either be tethered or leashed in such a way that it can not be ejected or jump out of the vehicle or shall be placed in a kennel-type box which shall be secured to the bed of the vehicle."
Charleston City Council almost passed a similar law two years later, but narrowly voted it down.
Elmore said the issue has not been a top priority of the Charleston Animal Society because its attention has been focused on dealing with the thousands of unwanted animals - and on lobbying state lawmakers to beef up the state's animal-cruelty laws.
But he praised Herlihy's efforts and said if nothing else, they will help raise awareness of the danger.
"Hopefully we'll be more progressive as the years go along. It's good legislation. It's common-sense legislation. A lot of communities do it," he said. "You're not going to ride around with your kids or people in the back of pickup trucks because we all know it's dangerous. It's the same for dogs."
Herlihy, daughter of Anthony and Margaret Herlihy, said she wrote a school paper about the issue last fall and continued to research the issue after that.
She said she was 8 years old when her neighbor's puppy Penny was thrown and later euthanized, "and it still has really affected me."
She said she may try to get a similar ordinance passed on the Isle of Palms. She also said she might return to Town Council, partly because she has a longer PowerPoint presentation that she did not get a chance to share because she was under a mistaken impression that she had only about two minutes to speak.
"I didn't know I had longer," she said. "I would have gone on."
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.