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Dogs riding in truck beds: is it illegal?

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Unfortunately, it is perfectly legal for an animal to ride unrestrained on flatbed trucks or in the bed of a pickup truck in the state of Utah. Though not illegal, it is incredibly dangerous for the animal and other motorists. The Humane Society of Utah adamantly opposes this practice and urges drivers to find an alternative way to transport their animals, such as a fully secured crate or inside the cab of the truck. 

Legality does not equal safety. According to American Humane, it is estimated that at least 100,000 dogs die in accidents each year due to riding unrestrained in truck beds. This amount does not take into account the number of humans who are injured or killed due to the distraction caused by seeing an unrestrained dog on the highway. 

“We receive a lot of calls, especially in the summer, from drivers who are extremely concerned for the well-being of a dog they see riding in the back of a truck,” said Rachel Heatley, Utah Humane Society advocacy and investigations director. “We want to educate dog owners about the extreme dangers associated with this practice. We’ve received animals to our shelter in the past who have fallen from a moving vehicle, and it is heartbreaking that the incident could’ve been prevented if the animal had been restrained properly.”

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommends the following to keep your animals safe while traveling by vehicle: 

  • Never allow an animal to travel in a cargo area of a vehicle, such as the bed of a truck. Cargo areas are unsuitable for animals due to a lack of protection from the weather, including heat than can burn paw pads and cause heatstroke. 
  • Animals should not be allowed to ride on the driver’s lap or near the driver’s feet. 
  • Small animals should be confined in crates or in travel-safe beds, and larger animals should be appropriately restrained with harnesses attached to the car’s seat belts.
  • Cats should always be transported in carriers.
  • Do not allow your animal to ride with their head or paws outside the window. Dirt and other debris can enter their eyes, ears and nose causing injury or infection. Paws can also be injured by debris, severe weather or passing vehicles. 

Though leaving an animal on a truck bed while in motion is legal in Utah, what is illegal is causing injury to an animal intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence. If an individual causes injury or death to an animal by traveling with the animal unrestrained in a truck bed, that individual could face misdemeanor animal cruelty charges. A single count of misdemeanor animal cruelty can cause an individual to face up to 364 days in jail and fines up to $2,500.  



Though the state of Utah does not have a law restricting animals from traveling in truck beds, some cities have local ordinances for transporting animals. Contact the Utah Humane Society Advocacy Department at advocacy@utahhumane.org for additional information.

About the Humane Society of Utah

The Humane Society of Utah is dedicated to the elimination of pain, fear, and suffering in all animals. Since 1960, the Utah Humane Society has been sheltering homeless animals, fighting cruelty and neglect, and creating an atmosphere of respect, responsibility, and compassion for all animals. As the largest open-admission private animal resource center in the state, the Utah Humane Society welcomes any companion animal that can legally be admitted. We work hard to ensure that every healthy and treatable pet that enters the facility will be placed into a loving home. The Humane Society of Utah is a local, independent 501(c)(3) private nonprofit organization that does not receive any state or government funding and is not a branch of any national organization. It is funded by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, and foundations. Read more online at www.utahhumane.org.