February 22, 2016 12:00 PM
House Bill 290, which passed out of the House Motor Vehicles committee last week, would make it illegal to drive a vehicle with an unrestrained animal in the back. The punishment? A $15 fine.
The bill’s sponsor, Democrat State Representative Karla Drenner, told the AJC that “The fine is not designed to be a deterrent. It is more about educating people on the potential cause of accidents.” The bill originally included all public roadways, but after considerable push back from rural legislators in Committee, was changed to only apply to state interstates.
According the Georgia DOT, animals in the roadway are the 6th leading cause of crashes in Georgia, however, the statistics do not delineate between animals that jump from vehicles and animals that are hit in the roadway.
The bill makes exceptions for:
- animals in a crate or other secure container;
- animals that are cross-tethered to vehicles and “encircled around the animals rib cage and shoulders;”
- animals riding in trucks with 46 inch high side/tail racks – something opponents of the bill say will be difficult to enforce.
Probable cause, with regard to this bill, is simply the plain view of a law enforcement officer.
Now, I’m one of the biggest animal lovers you will ever find. I tense up when I see a dog riding in the back of a pickup truck and probably wouldn’t let my own dogs partake in such activities unless I was driving 5 mph in an open field, but plenty of people train their dogs (and other animals) to sit and behave while riding in the fresh air of a truck bed. Accidents sometimes happen.
The bill also isn’t clear about specifically applying to pickup trucks. The language is loose and says in vehicles in a space “intended for any load” which could potentially mean an SUV.
Another aspect that is problematic to this bill is the notion that animals are the 6th leading cause of car crashes. The state does not keep statistics on how many of those animals jumped from a truck bed at a high rate of speed and how many of those animals sprang from the wood line along a highway. Are we tugging on the right heart string?
More importantly, do we really need a law for this?