Vol. 1, Issue 9, July 8, 2003
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Alabama Ends Canine Driving Licenses After 47 Years

In a landmark event ending a trademark feature of the state, Alabama Governor Bob Riley signed legislation on Friday which officially ended the practice of issuing driver's licenses to dogs.

"This is a sad day in many respects," said Riley in a press conference after the signing. "Allowing our faithful companions due and proper access to motorized vehicles has always been a hallmark of Alabama's progressive attitude, and I am deeply frustrated that Washington, D.C. has seen fit to interfere in a matter which is strictly a state concern."

Alabama has issued driver's licenses to dogs since 1956, as part of a backlash following the Supreme Court decision declaring bus segregation unconstitutional. However, dogs had been driving in Alabama since at least the 1930s.

"You know, people get busy, their hound picks up the slack," said longtime Montgomery resident and amateur historian Ernie Dubois. "Ain't no reason not to let a dog do its job. Drivin' ain't exactly hard, you know." To obtain the permits, dogs were required to pass the same driving test as everyone else. "If'n dogs can do it, and we're s'posed to give everyone a fair shot, then it stands to reason," Dubois added.

The state was forced to end the practice by federal threats to revoke much-needed highway funds. At issue was the recent surge in canine truck drivers, who were becoming a cause for concern in neighboring states.

"The whole idea was nuts," said Georgia transportation director Rudy Tremain. "Okay, so you let your hound toodle around the farm in the Ford - fair enough. But get them on the road and there's other issues. For instance, the fact that dogs are color-blind makes traffic lights kind of useless." Other problems commonly cited among canine drivers include stopping to pick up any roadkill they might encounter and frequently locking themselves out of the car. In addition, dogs have a tendency to travel in packs, leading to groups of ten or more 18-wheelers blocking all lanes of traffic. "That's pretty much why we went to Congress," said Tremain.

Dogs will retain the right to vote in local elections and apply for pilot licenses. However, their use of credit cards and checks may be impeded by the lack of an acceptable form of ID. "Dog tags don't cut it," said Dubois. "You try cashin' a check without a valid driver's license."

Despite the ban, which takes effect on August 1st, canine drivers are unlikely to disappear entirely from Alabama. "I 'spect you'll see 'em around," said Dubois. "And if you've got license plates from Georgia or D.C., I recommends you locks your doors when you do."


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