Dogs riding in the backs of pickups on 893 miles of highway in Louisiana would have to be crated under legislation that cleared a House committee Tuesday.

House Bill 470 by state Rep. Thomas Willmott generated graphic testimony about tethered dogs hanging themselves after leaping from truck beds on interstates.

If HB470 becomes law, motorists would face a maximum $150 fine for not crating a dog in a ventilated kennel on the state’s six primary interstate and six secondary interstate roads. An added $50 fine would be levied for each additional uncrated dog.

The crate would have to be secured to the motor vehicle or utility trailer, preventing the dog from “falling, jumping or being thrown from the vehicle.”

The House Committee on Transportation, Highways and Public Works voted without objection to advance the bill to the House floor.

Backers of the measure said the prohibition is necessary for the safety of animals and travelers. They said drivers are distracted by the sight of a dog standing on the side rails of a pickup that is going down the interstate.

John Long, of Metairie, told legislators about a bus trip he took a few years ago to a football game.

Long, who is president of Deep South All Breed Obedience Training Club, said his bus got behind a pickup that had a dog tethered in the truck’s bed. The dog flipped out of the truck and hung on the side with its paws dragging on the roadway until the bus driver managed to get the pet owner’s attention, he said.

The pet owner unhooked the dog, put it in the cab and raced to the vet, Long said.

“I don’t know what was the outcome. I hope the dog was OK,” he said.

Long said the accident also could have endangered the lives of the bus passengers.

Had the dog flipped out the truck’s back, the bus driver likely would have swerved to avoid hitting it, he said.

“A dog in the back of a pickup truck is very dangerous for everyone involved,” Long said.

Willmott, R-Kenner, said this is his second attempt at the legislation.

He said he took the time between last year’s session and the current session to clean up problems with the proposal. One change, he said, was to add that crates needed to be ventilated.

Jeff Dorson, of the Humane Society of Louisiana, said his organization often gets calls about animals injured from falling out of the beds of pickups.

Another problem, he said, is the distraction an uncrated dog creates for passing motorists.

“Even a dog looking over the side rails is a distraction,” Dorson said.

State Rep. Frankie Howard, R-Many, offered a personal reason for moving that the bill be advanced to the House floor.

Howard said he once owned dozens of Walker hounds that he transported all over the country for dog shows.

He said he never lets anyone put a dog in the back of a truck without a crate because a few of his dogs jumped out. One, he said, jumped out of the bed of a pickup and hung himself.

“If we’re going to transport animals, we need to do it with them in a crate,” Howard said.