By ERICH WAGNER
ANNAPOLIS (Feb. 17, 2009)—Senators were barking at each other on the Senate floor Tuesday over a bill that would restrict dogs from riding freely in the back of pickup trucks.
The Senate voted 30-17 against the bill, which was introduced by Sen. Norman Stone, Jr., D-Baltimore County, in the Senate and Delegate Kevin Kelly, D-Allegany, in the House.
Kelly said he introduced the bill after an incident where a dog flew out of the pickup truck in front of him, causing him to swerve and narrowly avoid an accident. He said he was surprised, because the bill passed in the House last year almost unanimously, 127-7.
Stone cited a Humane Society of the United States report that 100,000 dogs are killed each year across the country because they jumped out of or were thrown from the bed of a pickup truck.
Sen. E. J. Pipkin, R-Caroline, had concerns that the bill was too overreaching in terms of whether back roads would be included. These questions may seem minor, Pipkin said, "but back home this is serious business."
Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, R-Somerset, said he feared farmers would not be able to drive with their dogs on roads, leading to "a lot of unhappy dogs."
"Does this mean Rover is destined to a life of isolation now?" Stoltzfus asked.
The criticism was bipartisan, as Sen. Delores Kelley, D-Baltimore County, questioned whether dogs flying out of trucks were a real problem in the state.
"A single unique incident occurred that involved someone's pet, and because of that we will constrain all dog owners who want to take their dogs for a ride," Kelley said. "And the relief that you seek seems unreasonable ... in order to avoid something that probably will not happen for another 500 years."
Sen. Brian Frosh, D-Montgomery, came to Stone's aid in defense of the bill. Animals who fly out of the truck, "whether they have wings or not," are a danger not only to themselves but to other motorists as well, Frosh said, to no avail.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr., D-Calvert, said afterward that he's seen a similar phenomenon firsthand.
"I drive in a golf cart every morning to get the newspaper, race up a quarter-mile driveway, and every time my dog sees a squirrel it jumps off," Miller said. "So I can imagine if they're in the back of a pickup truck, it's something that we need to consider."
Stone said he was disappointed by his colleagues' decision to kill the bill.
"It's a problem for animals and it's a problem for motorists," Stone said. "I thought the bill made good sense, but the majority of the Senate didn't think so."
Kelly expressed his disappointment in a different way.
"I lost my dog," Kelly said. "My dog got hit by a truck on the Senate floor."
Capital News Service contributed to this report.