A bill filed with the Florida Legislature would allow drivers to be ticketed for allowing dogs to stick their heads out of moving vehicles.
This is bound to be very unpopular with dogs, perhaps the worst news ever, unless there’s some anti butt-sniffing provisions buried in some other canine bill.
The dogs-in-seat-belts legislation has been filed by Florida Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, as part of an animal welfare bill that also bans the declawing of cats, except for “therapeutic cases.”
I’ve long considered the impulse of dogs to stick their heads out of moving vehicles as a kind of therapy. Aroma therapy, maybe.
Buckle up, Fido
Book’s bill says that, for safety’s sake, dogs must either be in crates, secured by a harness or seatbelt or “under the physical control of a person other than the operator of the motor vehicle.”
No loose dogs would be allowed in the beds of pickup trucks, and drivers would be ticketed for a moving violation if they permit a dog in the vehicle “to extend its head or any other part of its body” outside the vehicle while it is moving.
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I guess the “other part of the body” language is there to address the issue of dog mooning — a problem I didn’t know existed.
I don’t think this bill will advance very far, considering all the “free state of Florida” marketing going on in Tallahassee these days.
It’s much more likely that the Republican-filed bill that would allow AR-15 rifles to be sold to some high school seniors will pass. That bill has already zoomed through a committee.
The rifles-to-teenagers bill would erase the law passed in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting massacre five years ago that banned rifle sales in Florida to those under the age of 21.
After Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old gunman with an AR-15 rifle, killed 17 students and faculty members and wounded 17 more at that Parkland high school, Florida lawmakers were momentarily afflicted with a temporary lapse in their usual bad judgment.
They changed the law that allowed rifle sales to teenagers as young as 18 years old, by raising the minimum age to 21. Cruz was 18 years old when he legally bought the AR-15 rifle he used in the massacre.
(Federal law already prohibits people younger than 21 from buying handguns.)
But that was five years ago, long enough for Florida lawmakers to return to their usual NRA-subservient selves in what is shaping up to be a banner year for creating new opportunities for future bloodshed.
Putting mass-casualty weapons in the hands of teens
Teens with AR-15s. Permitless carry of weapons without any training requirements for their use or storage. What can go wrong?
This brings me back to the dogs. The bill to restrain dogs in cars ought to be promoted as a firearms safety initiative.
As Florida continues to support the idea of guns, guns, everywhere, it’s worth noting that dogs sometimes shoot people. Not on purpose. But it happens.
In January, a German shepherd in the backseat of a pickup truck in Kansas walked on a loaded rifle on the seat, firing off a round that killed the 32-year-old front seat passenger.
When “good boys” turn deadly
Florida has had more than its fair share of gun-shooting dogs. In 2015, The Washington Post did a data analysis of dog-shoots-man cases and found that the four biggest predictors were these:
∙ Happened while hunting
∙ Happened in a car
∙ Happened in a boat
∙ Happened in Florida
“Florida appears to be home to several more of these accidents,” the story pointed out.
There’s Jerry Allen Bradford, the Pensacola man who was shot in the wrist with his own gun by a puppy he was holding in his other hand. Then there’s a Lee County woman who was shot six years later by another dog that reached for her gun.
Two other Florida men — Billy E. Brown, in Pasco County, and Gregory Dale Lanier, in Highlands County — were both shot by their dogs in 2011 and 2013.
In both cases, the men were driving pickup trucks with loaded weapons on the seats, and their dogs simply walked on the trigger of the guns, shooting both men in their legs.
In 2017, a Jacksonville woman was shot in the leg when her boyfriend’s dog, Diesel, bounded into their bed, accidentally triggering a shot from the boyfriend’s handgun on the nightstand.
So, Book’s dog-safety bill is really an animal welfare bill with a strong people-safety component.
Or to put it another way, we can’t have dogs walking all over the back seats of cars, pacing back and forth on the hunt for that perfect sniff of passing air out of either window.
Because if that happens, they might just step on the triggers of the loaded military-style, mass-casualty weapons we’re allowing our untrained 18-year-olds to legally buy.
Frank Cerabino is a columnist at The Palm Beach Post, part of the USA TODAY Florida Network. You can reach him at [email protected]. Help support our journalism. Subscribe today.