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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Hauling dogs and other animals

Concerned with human and animal safety, reader J.H. wrote, “I have noticed more and more dogs in the back of trucks and SUVs lately.  It’s often hard to tell if the dogs are tethered.  Large untethered dogs even in the back of a SUV seems dangerous to passengers if fast stops are required.  I would be interested in our State’s laws and Spokane city codes regarding the transport of animals.  The amount of the fine might give animal owners a good reminder for following the transport of animal laws.”

Only a few states (CT, NH, OR, and RI)  have laws within their rules of the road specifically forbidding transport of dogs in open pickup beds without a tether or enclosed container.  None of them specify requirements for transporting animals inside of a vehicle.

The state of Washington, however, has a law within their general Revised Codes (RCW 16.52.080) that can generate violations at the discretion of officers.  It is titled, “Transporting or confining in unsafe manner,” and reads:  Any person who willfully transports or confines or causes to be transported or confined any domestic animal or animals in a manner, posture or confinement that will jeopardize the safety of the animal or the public shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. And whenever any such person shall be taken into custody or be subject to arrest pursuant to a valid warrant therefor by any officer or authorized person, such officer or person may take charge of the animal or animals; and any necessary expense thereof shall be a lien thereon to be paid before the animal or animals may be recovered; and if the expense is not paid, it may be recovered from the owner of the animal or the person guilty.

Determining violation is pretty subjective, since there are no established police guidelines for determining what is “unsafe” or what “will jeopardize the safety of the animal or the public.”  So, citation issuance is up to individual officers, but the infraction is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $150, imprisonment in the county jail for up to 60 days, or both, and the driver must pay the costs of the prosecution.

And don’t forget the recent Washington law intended to protect animals from being left in hot cars.  RCW 16.52.340, titled, “Leave or confine any animal in unattended motor vehicle or enclosed space — Officers’ authority to reasonably remove animal,” reads:  (1) It is a class 2 civil infraction under RCW 7.80.120 to leave or confine any animal unattended in a motor vehicle or enclosed space if the animal could be harmed or killed by exposure to excessive heat, cold, lack of ventilation, or lack of necessary water. 

Washington lawmakers seem serious about the topic, even including wording within the statute to absolve officials from liability for emergency animal rescue from such abuse.  In part, that provision reads:  An animal control officer or law enforcement officer who believes that an animal is suffering is authorized to enter a vehicle to remove an animal by any means reasonable under the circumstances if no other person is present in the immediate area with access to the vehicle. An animal control officer, law enforcement officer, or the department or agency employing such an officer is not liable for any damage to property resulting from actions taken.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at