The mother of a 10-year-old girl who was seen riding in the back of a pickup truck inside a dog cage is defending her decision to allow it, saying her daughter "wanted to be with her dog."

"She plays with him in here all the time. They were strapped in," 29-year-old Abbey Carlson told CBS Pittsburgh.

Carlson and her 30-year-old boyfriend Thomas Fishinger were traveling home along the Pennsylvania Turnpike when a concerned citizen spotted the little girl caged in the bed of the couple's pickup truck and notified the authorities.

The two were subsequently arrested by Millvale Police and charged with child endangerment.

Fishinger, who had just been charged with 15 felony counts of identity theft and access device fraud, was out on bail when the cops picked him up yesterday.

Speaking with CBS, Fishinger said he and Carlson let the girl climb in the cage because the dog was crying.

"I don’t want to dog to suffer," Fishinger said. "That’s like animal cruelty to me, you know, the dog crying like that."

Both are due in Pittsburgh's District Court June 6th for their preliminary hearing.

[photo via Reddit, screengrab via KDKA]