Know your rights: Dogs may ride in the back of a pickup truck

By Richard Alderman
April 27, 2013 at midnight
Updated April 26, 2013 at 11:27 p.m.

I saw a dog riding in the back of a pickup. The truck hit a bump, and the dog almost fell out. Is this legal? It seems very dangerous for the dog.

In my opinion, the practice of letting a dog ride in the bed of a pickup truck is very dangerous for the dog, but it probably is not illegal. Texas has laws regarding children under 18 riding in the back of a pickup truck but no law regarding dogs.

Some cities, such as Dallas, have a city ordinance regarding animals in an open bed of a pick up, but there is no statewide law.

Is a will valid if I write it or order it online? Do I have to use an attorney?

There is no requirement that an attorney prepare a will. In fact, in Texas, a will written completely in your handwriting and signed is valid without the need for any witnesses. There also is no requirement that a will be notarized to be valid; although having the will notarized will make it much easier and less costly to probate.

There also are many online services that will sell a Texas will for a very reasonable price. Having said this, my advice is to have an attorney prepare your will and avoid any possible problems. Doing it yourself may save a few dollars, but a simple mistake will cost your loved ones substantially more, both in terms of money and time.

Like the ad says, "pay me now or pay me later." It also does not have to cost much money to have an attorney prepare a will. Many attorneys will prepare a simple will for not much more than the online forms cost.

I suggest you make some phone calls and shop around with area attorneys. My guess is you find one who charges what you believe is a reasonable price.

I am being sued for a credit card debt. You have written that a creditor may garnish money in my bank account. How does this work? I need the money in my checking account to pay my rent. Will I get notice before any of my money is taken?

If you owe someone money, that party has no right to garnish your bank account until they sue you, win in court and are awarded a judgment against you. After they receive the judgment, they may apply to the court for what is called a "writ of garnishment."

A writ of garnishment is basically a device that tells a bank or anyone else that owes you money to freeze that money and then turn it over to the creditor. In Texas, your creditors generally may not garnish a bank account that has your IRA or other money in a qualified retirement plan, but they may garnish other accounts, such as a savings or checking account.

When a creditor is granted a writ of garnishment, the writ will be enforced without any additional notice to you. This is necessary to make sure debtors do not withdraw money in anticipation of it being garnished. In other words, if one of your creditors has sued you and wins, you should not be surprised to suddenly find that your bank account has been garnished. If this happens, your fears will be realized.

You will lose your money and outstanding checks will bounce. My advice is to not maintain a large balance in a checking account after you have been sued and work out a payment plan with the creditor.

I heard you offer a free copy of a living will? How do I get one? Does it have to be notarized to be valid?

A living will is the document you complete if you do not wish to be kept alive on life support after you have been diagnosed as terminal. For a free copy of a living will, just go to my website and click "Advanced Directive."

The living will does not have to be notarized but must be signed by two witnesses. For a free copy of a living will or more information about your legal rights, visit

Richard Alderman, a consumer advocate popularly known as "the People's Lawyer," is a professor at the University of Houston Law School in Houston. His column appears weekly in the Victoria Advocate. Write to him at UH Law Center, Houston, Texas 77204-6391. He also maintains a Web page at



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