Skip to main content
road sage

There are a few sights that always bring a smile to my face, everyday moments of serenity that put the world and all its troubles aside for a second and let the unseen order underneath burst out. Among these I include:

  • The look of a freshly cleared driveway, that someone else has shovelled.
  • The arc and spin of a perfectly struck tennis ball.
  • Seeing dawn breaking over the Piazza del Popolo in Rome after an evening out.
  • A dog with its head stuck out a car window.

The first three are hard to come by frequently. The fourth is more common. Show me a dog with its head out the window of a moving car and I will show you the happiest creature on earth (until the next dog I see with its head out the window). Dogs love the experience because it offers a super smell overload.

As Professor Chris Daniels, a zoologist from the University of South Australia, explained to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, ”We need to remember that a dog’s head is this incredible sensory apparatus. They smell so much better than we do, in that their sense of smell is much greater than we have, and they have good vision. Their head is jam-packed full of sensors, so when they stick their head out the window, they’ve got this great pressure of air moving at great speed over them, and it’s a sensory overload.”

There are those who want to make this “sensory overload” illegal.

Chief among them is Florida Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book who put forth Senate Bill 932 on Feb. 17, which would, among many provisions, make it illegal to “allow a dog to extend its head or any other body part outside a motor vehicle window while the person is operating the motor vehicle on a public roadway.” Window-opening dog owners would be guilty of a noncriminal traffic infraction.

Book says she is a dog lover.

Her bill received immediate and vociferous pushback. The Florida Jolt outlet summed up the furry fury by tweeting, “Lauren Book doesn’t want our dogs to have any joy in their short lives.”

By Feb. 22, Book was already planning to “remove or significantly change” the provision. The bill also includes provisions that would stop Florida drivers from having their dogs sit on their lap while driving. Also banned would be transporting dogs on a car’s running board, fender, hood, roof or trunk. The roof ban seems like a particularly sound idea.

It’s hard to imagine what would possess a senator in the state of Florida to propose legislation that is going to infuriate so many dog owners (a group that is not known for being laid back or easy going when it comes to their pets). Perhaps she was counting on the fact that dogs can’t vote.

Apparently, the big concern is safety. The provision is supported by animal welfare advocates and veterinarians, among them the American Veterinarian Medical Association whose website states “Your dog is at high risk of eye, ear, face and mouth injury from airborne objects when it’s got its face hanging out the window.” The AVMA notes that allowing your dog to have any part of its body out the window, “Increases the risk that (s)he could be thrown out of the vehicle during a collision, lose its balance and fall out of the open window during an abrupt turn or manoeuvre, or jump out of the vehicle to threaten another dog or a person.”

It’s admirable to want to protect animals from harm. The question here is whether the risk is worth the reward. Is the increased risk of an eye injury worth the mind-blowing snout-stimulating “sensory overload.” We’re talking about a sensory overload so fantastic that dogs risk developing a dependence. According to Daniels, “they can have an addiction sort of issue as well. They get used to it, they love it, they want to keep doing it, sometimes to the point where some dogs get anxious if you don’t wind down the window. They’ll get into the car and demand the window comes down, so they can get this fix of great sensory overload.”

As I write this it’s 11:57 a.m. and I’m on my fourth coffee. That “sensory overload” sounds pretty good.

It’s unfortunate we can’t just ask the dogs. It’s not their fault. Dogs can talk. We just can’t understand them.

But even without vocalizing their desires, we can all agree that dogs aren’t known for being pleasure-averse. To use the vernacular: Dogs know how to party. Give them some open air, a field with a few trees and some fragrant butts to sniff and they’re good.

If you could ask, I bet most canines would vote to take the reward and handle the risk. My Labrador, for instance, was willing to “accept the risk” of surreptitiously eating about 20 pounds of Royal Canin dog food she had some how discovered in order to “enjoy the reward” of being so bloated and immobile we thought she was dying. We only discovered she had enjoyed her “reward” when she was not her usual ravenous self at dinnertime.

It’s a dog’s life.