I (Dr. Henri Bianucci) was speaking with a veterinarian friend of mine the other day and he related a sad case to me. It was a Labrador retriever puppy, about 9 months old, with a fractured spine. The neurological injury was complete and irreversible.
"Even you can't fix this one, boss," he said.
As an owner of two busy emergency clinics, and as a referral surgeon, it is not at all unusual for me to hear things like this, but what puts this in a different category is that it was entirely preventable. This puppy fell from the back of the pickup truck he was riding in.
The vet said it was an unfortunate "accident."
This type of thing happens with such frustrating frequency that I don't think "accident" is the right word.
When someone places their pet in what any reasonable person would consider a dangerous situation and an injury results, it's careless, irresponsible, unnecessary, stupid, etc. Many terms apply, but it's no accident.
In South Carolina, the sense of outdoor culture, sporting life and freedom all go along with jumping into a pickup and heading off with your dog in the truck bed.
It's also the freedom to bring your dog anywhere, no matter how muddy, and not have a mess in the cab. I definitely get that, but as Abe Lincoln once said, "Facts are stubborn things," and the fact is that this poses a serious risk of injury to your dog, not to mention whoever may have to swerve to avoid him as he falls to the road.
South Carolina law is silent about this, but others are not.
According to Dr. Robin Ganzert, the president of the American Humane Association, an estimated 100,000 dogs are killed each year riding in truck beds.
In 2013, Ford Motor Co., and the American Humane Association teamed up in a pet-safety awareness campaign called "Dogs Ride Inside." Their message was that dogs should never ride outside of the cab.
On a more local and individual level, an Ashley Hall teenager from Mount Pleasant, Megan Herlihy, went before town council petitioning for a law requiring truck drivers to secure their dogs in the pickup bed. They rejected her. The mayor said it would be difficult to enforce, like texting and driving.
These bans, by the way, are in effect in many municipalities.
The police chief said he couldn't recall any dogs being killed lately. Well, these dogs usually wind up at our clinic, not the police station. Another councilman said he'd worry about a leash restraint because the dog could be dragged. Megan was undeterred and said she would try again.
I have no doubt that the people who drive with their dogs in the bed love their dogs. It may be ignorance, denial or the false sense of security believing that their dog is used to this and would never jump.
They don't have to. A sudden stop, turn or impact will do the job for them.
Some people may have little room in the cab for family and a dog, or believe, correctly, that it is dangerous to have them ride in the front seat.
The solutions are simple. If your dog rides in the cab, it should ride in the back seat or be secured with a restraint harness. They are readily available at pet shops and online.
If your dog must ride in the bed, it should be secured with a specially designed restraint harness that does not allow them to get over the sides of the bed. Longer tethers can lead to death by hanging or allow them to be dragged. Another option is a cage that is secured to the bed.
Dr. Henri Bianucci and Dr. Perry Jameson are with Veterinary Specialty Care LLC. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or veterinaryspecialtycare.com.