- After much howling in the Legislature, senators decided that dogs can continue riding free in the backs of pickup trucks.

They voted down a bill Monday that would have created a misdemeanor offense, punishable with a $50 fine, for allowing a dog to ride unrestrained in the truck bed.

Sponsors said they were trying to protect the animals and motorists, but lawmakers - particularly from rural areas of the state - were highly critical.

The bill had been amended to exempt dogs being transported for farming or hunting purposes. Senators then amended it to apply only to trucks driving on interstates, but that wasn't enough for opponents.

They voted 13-11 against it.

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