Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Pet The Biker's Giant Squid...

A New Jersey biker was recently issued a citation by Marlboro police for “careless driving” and “the improper transportation of an animal,” according to a story carried in the online version of the Asbury Park Press. The published account states that Gyula Szatmari, 56, male, was spotted on a motorcycle, with a dog in his lap, by Sergeant Anthony Lena of the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). A Marlboro Township police officer was dispatched to pull the rider over and issue the summonses. Two other points mentioned in this piece are a) that it was raining; and b) that Szatamari had been warned about transporting the dog in this manner last year.

The rider admitted to carrying his pet on the bike for years like this, and the article was accompanied by a New Jersey Press Media file photo taken in 2009, depicting Szatmari’s dog (which appears to be a boston terrier, though listed as a “pug”) regally sitting on a sheepskin pad, atop the gas tank, and not in the operator’s lap. The story was competently written and included all of the facts that seemed pertinent to the piece.

The media file photograph on Szatmari’s pooch is enduring proof that dogs on motorcycles are good copy. Not only is this one a compelling human interest story, but it’s outcome will hold some significance for that small percentage of riders who buzz around in the company of their dogs... Significant because of the fine... And significant because it could set a parameters for determining the parameters for carrying cats, dogs, birds, iguanas, and giant squid on motorcycles.

I have one problem with this story as presented, and that lies with the implication of its headline, which reads: “Biker Pug? Marlboro Cops Charge Man With Animal Cruelty.”

Nowhere in this piece was Szatmari charged with “animal cruelty.” Specifically, the charges were “careless driving” and “the improper transportation of an animal.”
The phrase “animal cruelty” is conspicuous by its absence.

I consider “animal cruelty” to be the wanton neglect and abuse of dogs, cats, birds, and livestock. This includes torture, starvation, cock fighting, pit bull fighting, and breeding pedigreed animals like living assembly lines. Yet it would be hard to apply the popular definition of cruelty to Szatmari — based on this sole press media file photo. Bosco Szatmari’s dog) is wearing a knit doggie-sweater, with a dogbone pattern worked into the weave. Now the dog may be personally embarrassed by having to wear this, but that would fall under the category of mental cruelty. In this photograph, Bosco is sitting on a sheepskin fleece, that would qualify as a “tuffet,” suitable for Miss Muffet, if it was any thicker. Again, this is hardly the spirit of animal cruelty. .

Does carrying a dog on a motorcycle gas tank, or in the operating rider’s lap, constitute “careless driving?”

To me, careless driving means weaving over the lines, dialing a cell phone, texting, putting mayonnaise on a sandwich, sleeping, or otherwise not concentrating on the task at hand — which is operating a motor vehicle. Since I wasn’t there, it could be that Szatmari was grooming the dog, or training it to sit up. Otherwise, I would think “careless driving” would have to include something else.

Would it be smart to train a dog to ride on the gas tank? That’s another question. Bosco appears to cover as much acreage as a large tank bag. I don’t use tank bags because they obstruct my view of the instruments. Personally, I don’t want any distractions between me and the business of operating the motorcycle. This includes cell phones, cups of coffee, or cigars. But other riders — more competent riders — may not be restricted by my limitations.

The stories of bikers cruising around with dogs are well-known to all of us. Each is slightly different, and all are endearing. I know of two riders who never hesitate to bring their dogs on a run. One guy is a jazz musician whose dog rides around in an open milk crate securely fastened to the luggage rack on the back of his bike. His dog is white Labrador mixed-breed who accepts assistance getting into the crate, and needs none getting out. The dog can move around freely, to stare out the back, to ride with her tongue waving out in the breeze, or to crunch down.

My other riding buddy can be found in neighborhood parades, leading antique rides, or just heading off to the country for the occasional run on a bike that was new when Harry Truman was in the White House. About 50% of the time there is an Australian sheepdog in the sidecar rig. The dog has been trained to carry wrenches from the tool box. Now it could be argued that these dogs are more or less contained in something, and do not have to concentrate on balancing to ride the bike. But neither one is restrained in any way. And if they get caught out in the rain, these dogs will get wet; about as wet as they’d get in the yard on rainy night. I can also understand concern for debris, dust and sand getting into a dog’s eyes... But I also know the kind of crud dogs get into by themselves — without the benefit of a motorcycle.

If I had the kind of lifestyle where my dog rode with me, I probably wouldn't just rely on the animal’s ability to balance on the bike... I’d work out something in the way of a crate. Law spells out everything. I am not personally familiar with laws that spell out how a dog, or a cat, or a goldfish, should be carried on a motorcycle (in New Jersey nor elsewhere). I have taken two safety courses, and while the topic of pillion riders is on the agenda, I have yet to hear the recommended procedure for transporting animals on a bike. Gyula Szatmari’s case comes up in Marlboro Municipal Court on October 13th, 2011. If there is nothing that says a dog must be carried in a specific manner on a motorcycle in New Jersey, then I can’t imagine what they’d have him on.

I'm curious... Do you think riding with an unrestrained dog on the gas tank or pillion constitutes "cruelty to animals?" Take the poll at the upper right.

My taste in pets has always run toward the peculiar. When the other kids in the third grade had goldfish, I kept a bright purple sea anemone. I’d leave a couple of quarters (25¢ coins) in the tank, knowing the other kids would make a grab for them... Getting a full jolt of the critter’s venom for their effort.

The dog in my life at the moment is a German shepherd the size of a shetland pony. Atticus would have no interest in riding on the back of a motorcycle (unless it was covered with pork chops). Besides, his gentle nature is such that he would welcome passersby to rummage through my sidebags, keeping anything they liked. Yet riding in the company of my posse — Pete Buchheit, Dick Bregstein, Clyde Jacobs, and Gerry Cavanaugh — is so much like riding alone (as they are generally 50 or 60 miles ahead of me), that I found myself longing for the companionship of a pet... An animal with strong instincts and personality... A creature that reminded me of the mothers who spawned several woman to whom I was once married.

“Eugene” is the name of my giant squid. He rides behind me in an old turkey-frying pot bolted to the tailpiece of my BMW K75. Small as giant squid go, Eugene is about 18 feet long, and is approximately 2/3s of coiling tentacles that slip and slide around in the pot. He’s got eyes the size of VW Beetle hubcaps and about 6-feet of head that sticks straight up like the sissy bar from hell.

I recently got buttonholed by a well-intentioned person who felt compelled to advise me that I was astride a “donor-cycle.” He had all the latest accident statistics and data regarding how I'd end up a chattering head on table, requiring family members to wipe my ass. At first, I explained that I wasn't far from that now, and that my family members all carried croquet mallets to respond to my requests for ass-wiping now. Then I smiled politely, and advised the nice gentleman to look in the pot. His sermon ended in a muffled gasp. A pair of shoes was left on the curb about 30 seconds later. But “Eugene” is genuinely fond of women. So if any of you ladies out there would like to pet my giant squid, drop me a line. Just type in "Looking For Eugene" in the subject line.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011.
All rights reserved.

Note to "Brady of: Behind Bars...." Blogger no longer allows me to comment on your blog.
Note to John McClane's "Scooter In Turkey..." Blogger no longer allows me to comment on your blog.


Stacy said...

It appears that Sergeant Anthony Lena of the SPCA needs to watch the classic movie "On Any Sunday".

BeemerGirl said...

I know quite a few people that ride with their dogs. Though I have never ridden with them while the pets have been included. And I am torn. I believe some dogs can be quite well behaved and not cause any problems. And Doggles would prevent some debris issues.

I'm not as concerned with dogs in active riding. I'm concerned for the dogs when something goes wrong. I had the misfortune to witness a motorcycle accident where the dog was on the tank. The rider didn't fare too well, but was alive and mostly moving. The poor dog was laying immobile with a broken neck.

If you love your animal enough, what are you doing for its safety if an accident were to occur?? Wouldn't it be better to leave it at home for hugs and kisses upon return?

RichardM said...

I read the article earlier today and had similar thoughts about shoddy journalism. I thought the cruelty charge was dumb. But I was influenced by Lori's comment before voting. I'd be in the "get a sidecar rig" camp if you want to have your dog with you. Just like Ara and Spirit. I also would consider drivers or riders with dog(s) in their field of vision in the driving while distracted category.

Just my opinion....

Conchscooter said...

They do it in cars. But we live in a world where risk of any kind is no longer allowed. Conformity is all. Better move to key west if you wanttomride with your dog and not be condemned by the bores.

BMW-Dick said...

There's nothing unusual about riding with pets. I know many capable bikers who often ride with crabs. One guy comes to mind who must be a cat lover, because he says he travels with a pussy. On the other hand, he may be talking about his timid riding partner.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Stacy:

I cannot fault the efforts of the SPCA in preventing the abuse of animals, nor for their care of abandoned pets. They do a great job.

But I wonder if someone wasn't reaching a little in having the police pull over a biker with a little dog on the gas tank. I find it hard to believe that this incident represents the depths to which animal cruelty has sunk in Marlboro, New Jersey.

If this is the worst the SPCA has to contend in the Garden State, then New Jersey is "clean." Every organization relies on some degree of public recognition to generate support. I wonder if someone thought this would be a good way to get a little ink in the paper.

I wonder if any of the "non-police" officials involved in this incident have it in for motorcycles.

Thanks for reading Twisted Roads...

Fondest regards,

mtlcowgirl said...

Re: Animals riding pillion. Do bitches count? I are one.

Superlative writing as usual.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear BeemerGirl (Steel Cupcake):

I am a dog person, having had one or been around one my whole life. There is nothing as pleasant as a dog of discretion or a well-behaved pup. And the only thing more annoying than a pain-in-the-ass kid is a pain-in-the-ass dog.

Any of the dogs I have met on motorcycle trips (and they have been few) were sterling examples of man's best friend. Yet these dogs were in sidecars or in modified crates on the back.

While it can still be argued that this exposes the dog to some element of risk... What aspect of life is nor risk-free for men or dogs.

Thanks for reading Twisted Roads, and for taking the poll.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Conch Scooter:

That's a good point. Dogs in cars are not wearing seat belts, which according to conventional wisdom, is the same as going around with a pistol in you mouth. Of course, it should be noted that dog food of questionable quality from China recently proved fatal too.

You cannot legislate life into perfection.

Thanks for reading Twisted Roads,
and for writing in.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Richard M.

In the good old days of journalism (the '70s and the '80s), somebody on the composing desk did the headlines. I cannot believe that the reporter who wrote this piece also wrote the headline, which appears to be incorrect. It is my thought that some editor who briefly read this piece thought the theme was "cruelty prevented."

As you are aware, the unified brotherhood of bikers cannot even agree on oil, helmets, or mufflers, let alone the subject of dogs. As I stated in the blog, if it was my dog, the animal would be accommodated in some sort of crate arrangement on the rear. This is a moot point as I like big dogs, of the size that would defeat a mounted crate or a sidecar rig.

Thanks for reading Twisted Roads, and for taking the poll.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Mr. Bregstein (The Dick):

I have been on a number of crab runs with you, and have always used great discretion about the places we frequent on such runs.

By the way, I got a nice note from my cardiologist — Dr. Peter Frechie — after you sent him a picture of me eating a donut at Hermy's, last week. He warmly addressed me as "You Fat Fuck."

So on the subject of pussies, I have decided to send Mrs. You - Know - Who the details of your last "garage drop," which may have occurred at 45mph.

Your Riding Partner,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear MTL Cowgirl:

Riding "Bitch" is a time-honored position here at "Twisted Roads." How is my old friend Mack?

Fondest regards,

Dan Mckenzie said...

"if any of you ladies out there would like to pet my giant squid"? Is that a pickup line? I thought at first you were talking about a real giant squid. We're a little slow here in Minnesota...

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Dan:

Nope... I am talking about a real giant squid.

Fondest regards,
Twisted Roads

Anonymous said...

Yes, it's pretty cool to do the dog on the tank thing.

But I did loose a good friend and H-D customer, Earl Caulder, of Petersburg VA,while he was giving his pooch a ride on the tank.

Not sure how the accident happened, the dog came home OK.

There was also a pigeon which would fly along so close that his wing would sometimes touch my face shield.

It would perch on a stop light, wait for any biker to come by and do it again.


Jack Riepe said...

Dear Dano:

Sometimes life is a bit of a toss up... But after a bit, I am less inclined to do what is cool in favor of doing something that works better. Maybe the dog jumped from the tank and your friend got distracted. Or maybe the dog had nothing to do with it at all.

No one will ever know. Yet I am sure your friend was delighted the dog came home, regardless of the overall outcome.

Nice to hear from you, Dano. Is it raining there?

Fondest regards,

Anonymous said...

No Jack, we have had sweet weather for the past couple days.

Don't worry, it's coming your way.

Weird thing about the South, we actually need tropical storms and are set up for them.

If we don't get them, it's drought city (as in Texas now).


Bluekat said...

I haven't seen him myself, but we have a burly Harley rider who carries a little chihuahua on his tank.

Our little terrier would absolutely love riding on the gas tank. I once took her for a ride on the back of my cruiser in a milk crate. She liked that too, but kept trying to peek around me. 14 little pounds and I could feel her leaning to one side or the other. I could never have her in front, too distracting.

I don't think it's cruel. Some dogs love it, but I worry too much about her being in an accident, so that has been her only ride.

Unknown said...


What the dick?

Also, I do not approve of the dog on the tank, basically because it has its balls blowing out in the breeze. I wouldn't approve of the location for a goldfish, plate of spaghetti, or infant - though I realize a dog is an animal and not a human. I love animals, but people who cannot make the distinction are a great concern to me. I would guess the dog enjoys his position. He's a goddamn dog and wouldn't go up there if he didn't.

My biggest qualm with the situation is if he has to really hit the brakes or there is a rear-end situation. What this guy does not need is a meat-and-bone missile, or an extra concern when deciding the best way to pitch the bike. Also, it's an animal, and as intelligent as people like to consider animals, I've heard dogs are only as smart as a 2-1/2 year old human. If that dog gets scared, where in gods name will it jump?

Put it in a bag, tank bag, crate, backpack, or hat with a basket attached. When that dog freaks out and bites a nut, the rider is going to be very distracted.

Alright, I've lost my thought. I think you understand my sentiment.

What web browser are you using? Try switching to google chrome. It's a little strange at first, but a good program. it might do the trick. I expect you to figure this out. Dammit.

Unknown said...

And by 'this' I mean the inability to post on my blog. Try posting anonymously.

Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life

mtlcowgirl said...

Shaky but standing. He's doing okay.

Anonymous said...

I'm purchasing my first sidecar rig for the dog. She's my companion and I
look forward to riding can camping with her. She's an old girl and I told her that she's in for a new experience next year. I just hope she likes it.

Carl Boler

Jack Riepe said...

Dear BlueKat:

I knew I could count on you for some practical data. So the dog weighs 14 pounds, and you could feel the bike moving as the dog shifted her weight? I wondered about that. Did you have her leashed into the crate, or could the dog bail at whim?

What kind of terrier do you have?

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Brady:

You were not the only "dog" person who came back with this perspective. Many (responding to my personal e-mail) were of the opinion that it would be too easy for the dog to panic in a bad situation... That the dog (if on the tank) could bolt, causing the rider to grab for the dog (with disastrous results... And one stated that he had the right to demand that any rider, or motor vehicle operator, devote their entire concentration to the operation of the vehicle.

But for the exception of two opinions, the overwhelming response is that riding around with a dog on the gas tank or the pillion (in a crate) does not constitute cruelty to animals.

Now, what happens when I try to leave a comment on your blog? In Firefox, the comment box remains blank and will not accept text. In Safari, the comment box is incomplete, and appears as a shape that is closed only on three sides, and unable to accept text.

I will try to leave one as anonymous, by checking that option first.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Carl:

You are among several Twisted Roads readers who commented (via my personal e-mail) that they are using a hack rig specifically to travel around with their pooches. The word on the street is that the hack rig offers a dog enough room to move around, look at he countryside, and get out of the wind if necessary.

Carl, I think I could keep up with you, if you were buzzing around on a sidecar. Then again...

It is always a pleasure to hear from you, Carl. Keep your ass down over there in Afghanistan.

Fondest regards,

Anonymous said...


I got my first sidecar for my dog "bulk".

By my estimation Bulk rode 10k miles in that bike. We went shopping, visited Patti, and went camping and to rallys. He loved the sidecar and would jump in w/o touching the paint. He loved the fresh air and the attention he would get.

After about 5 years with the /5, I got the K100 with the EML sidecar.
Bulk loved riding in that one just as well. Alas, even with good
maintenance and letting them swim every chance you can dogs don't
last forever.

I got another black lab named Kasa. When she was a few months old I introduced her to the sidecar and she loved it too. She had
thousands of miles riding with Patti, and then with my two sons. I
have to think she loved every mile.

My friend Doug W. also had a dog and a sidecar. The dog was a
black lab mix called Normyl. Need I say more. Doug had a Ural
bike/sidecar with a BMW engine. The Ural sidecar was completely open
on the side with a tubular step on the side. Normyl would ride with
his butt on the seat and his two front feet out on the step, nose in
the wind for miles. Never a problem.

About 15-20 years ago there was a guy who rode a small-medium size
dog around on the tank of this R75/5. He had a little piece of
carpet strapped to the tank. When I saw him on the road they looked
perfectly stable and secure. The dog could as well have been sitting
on the kitchen floor. They were a fixture in this area. You always
saw the bike parked at the diner, hardware store or market. Bike on
the sidestand and dog stretched out on the tank. Perfectly happy. I
have a hard time seeing that as abuse. The would not be there if the dog did not want to be there.

I think it is OK for dogs to ride on bikes. If the dog wants to ride
on the tank, then that is OK too. I am not a dog, but I have been
around them all my life. I can tell when a dog is stressed and these dogs were all relaxed and happy going for a ride.

Can't the dog fall off? The dog is holding on with all four feet. The pads and claws have great traction on the carpet. Dogs have great balance. They are not strapped on or attached any better than your child sitting pillion. is taking your kid for a ride child abuse?

Ride Safe,

Joe D.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Joe:

You have hundreds of thousands of miles on motorcycles, vintage or otherwise, and I have great respect for your opinion. Your position on riding dogs around on a bike is well-taken and supported (as are your technical reports).

I like the idea of the sidecar for a dog, though that method of riding would be an acquired taste for me. Yet if I were ever going to hit the road in the company of a dog, I'd have no other option. (I like big dogs.)

Still for me, if I was buzzing around with a Jack Russell, I'd have a special pillion crate so I'd not have to worry about the dog bailing after a rabbit or some bitch.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Additional note to Brady:

You made another interesting point, and I will probably stick my head in a noose here... "Regarding people who think of dogs as children..."

I have loved dogs as deeply as any human on the planet. I was sick for two months when our beloved "Gatsby" died. But anyone who has ever sat up while their little girl has gone through a night with fever of 104º knows the difference.


Jack Riepe said...

Additional Note To Conchscooter:

I think you are right... There are times when people should mind their own business. But it isn't always easy to know when those times are...

And it has occurred to me that all of the players in this bike-riding dog scenario might not have clean hands. It is possible that one or two have it in for bikers.


Jack Riepe said...

Dear MTL Cowgirl:

Tell him I was asking about him. We're all getting a little shakey... Mack just does it with more style.

Fondest regards,

Anonymous said...

Joe D wrote:
> Can't the dog fall off? The dog is
> holding on with all four feet.
> The pads and claws have great
> traction on the carpet. Dogs
> have great balance. They are
> not strapped on or attached any
> better than your child sitting
> pillion. is taking your kid for
> a ride child
> abuse?

Excellent point, Joe D. And like bmwrebel said, can't people just mind their own damn business?! No, I guess not, ....there will always be
those who need to interject their biased brand of "rules" to society.
Same lot who would be perfectly happy legislating your (and their!)
rights away in the name of "protecting the innocent or unwary" (where
that proposed "protection" is highly subjective, arguably invalid and
always at a cost of personal freedom!) No fear. I'm sure it'll be quite
easy and effective to keep an eye on our elected legislators to make sure they
don't vote in favor of such knee-jerk asininery. Yeah, right.


Jack Riepe said...

Dear Dave C.:

This started out as an observation on a little online story involving a rider in New Jersey, and hid dog. But as is the case with oil threads and helmet discussions, there is no abrupt blaCk and white... Just a colorful shade of gray. Yet there is not a sense that animal cruelty has taken place.

Thanks Dave.

Nikos said...


I would worry that as we rolled to a stop at some traffic lights, Mutley would spot a pussy cat on the adjacent Pink Vespa, take chase and end up as road kill.

Then Mutley would feel guilty of cruelty to Camiila's pussy.

Unknown said...


Gotta agree. I had a cat, Moof, who was the absolute shit. When he got hit by a car I was devastated. I felt so sappy crying over a cat, but I loved that little turd.

The nicest thing anyone said to me after it happened was a four-year-old in my class at the time.

"Maybe he run oft to find his mommy!"

Can't beat it.

But, I knew that the cat was just a cat, and not more important than the little guy who cheered me up.

Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life

Ken said...

I see dogs on a chain, or in a small dog run, or kept in one room in a house all day...and I see dogs riding on their owners motorcycle. If I were a dog, I'd rather be out on a bike.

Gary France said...

Jack, would it count as a “woof” if your gas tank had a leak, the dog was in covered in gas and suddenly ignited due to you dropping your cigar as you rode?

Yes, I know you said you don’t smoke cigars when on the bike, but that ruins the story.

I can agree with many different sides of the pro’s and con’s of taking a dog on the gas tank of a bike, in fact so many sides, I thought a dreadful joke might help. Sorry, I will be quiet now....