House bill to restrain dogs in pickups advances _lowres

Advocate Photo by MICHELLE MILLHOLLON -- Legislation that would require dogs be secured instead of riding loose in a truck bed by state Rep. Tom Willmott, R-Kenner, narrowly won approval in the full House on Tuesday.

For a second year in a row, the state Senate likely will decide whether dogs should be restrained in the backs of pickups.

The House — on a 53-34 vote — approved House Bill 1091 Tuesday to require dogs be secured instead of riding loose in a truck bed on an interstate highway. The bill needed at least 53 votes to advance.

As the bill disappeared from the House electronic tote board, the sound of barking dogs suddenly broke out in the House chamber.

The culprit was state Rep. Jeff Arnold, D-New Orleans, who played a snippet from the YouTube video of “Who Let the Dogs Out” into his microphone after HB1091 cleared the House floor.

Willmott, R-Kenner, has tried before to restrict drivers from allowing dogs to roam freely in the backs of fast-moving pickups. More restrictive legislation reached the Senate last year and died.

State Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Bossier City, told Willmott on Tuesday that some of his constituents have hunting dogs who know not to jump out of a moving truck.

“What if you have to drive on a highway to get anywhere?” Thompson asked.

Willmott said last year’s bill required dogs to travel in crates. This year, he’s offering drivers three options for restraining their dogs: Buy a crate, a harness leash or a ventilated vehicle top.

“Just secure them so they don’t fall off. How you do that is up to you as long as it’s humane,” he said.

State Rep. James Armes, D-Leesville, said the restriction would only apply to interstates, which often allow higher speeds than other roadways.

Willmott said he wanted to protect dogs as well as drivers who might swerve to avoid hitting a jumping animal.

State Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, told the House that she got behind a truck carrying three dogs on the interstate a few years ago. One of the dogs jumped out, prompting Moreno and drivers behind her to swerve.

“I could have been killed. Whether or not you consider a dog a piece of property or an extension of your family, at the end of the day ... it is a significant problem to other drivers,” Moreno said.

Willmott said he just wants to protect motorists.

“It’s just a humane, safety bill. If a dog falls out in front of you, it’s just like an unsecured load. It creates an emergency situation. It’s clearly a public safety issue. What happens to dogs who fall at a high rate of speed is another (issue),” he said.