New Laws Require Dogs to Be Restrained in Vehicles

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Earlier this week USA Today published an article on new state laws requiring pets to be restrained when riding in vehicles. No doubt, last year’s pet travel survey by AAA and Kurgo is part of the reason. The results of the survey were distressing:

    • 56% of respondents had driven with their dog in a vehicle at least once per month over the past year.
    • Only 16% of owners who had driven with their pet used some form of restraint for the dog in the vehicle.

According to the American Pet Products Association, there are 78 million dogs in US households. So, if 56% of those 78 million dogs are going for a ride at least once a month … that’s 43,680,000 dogs traveling in vehicles. And, only 16% are buckled up? That means 36,691,200 dogs’ lives are being put at risk every month.

Dog in Car

But it gets better … more than four out of five people (83%) responding to the survey agreed that having an unrestrained dog in a moving car can be dangerous. That seems to be the impetus for laws being applied to pets in vehicles.

Arizona, Connecticut and Maine – distracted-driving laws can be used to charge drivers with pets on their laps.

Hawaii – explicitly forbids drivers from holding a pet on their lap.

New Jersey – a NJSPCA officer can stop a driver they believe is improperly transporting an animal. Tickets range from $250 to $1,000 per offense, and a driver can face a disorderly person’s offense under animal-cruelty laws.

Rhode Island – Democratic State Rep. Peter Palumbo has proposed legislation that would make having a dog in your lap a distracted-driving violation.

Ty and Buster in Kurgo
We're Ready to Roll!

The goal of these states is not to save the lives of our pets … though it will be a nice side effect. The main focus of the legislation is to protect humans lives – the pet owners’ and everyone else on the road. Unrestrained pets can become a distraction. Distractions cause accidents. In a collision at 50 mph, an unrestrained 10-pound dog will hit you with about 500 pounds of force – more than enough to do serious damage to you and the dog. Just imagine the kind of force a dog Buster’s size would inflict!

We have laws that require us to wear seat belts and ensure our children are properly restrained in the car. There are laws to protect us from drunk drivers and people who text, apply make-up, or talking on the phone while driving. Is the requirement that we buckle up our pets really too much to ask?

What do you think? Would you support a pet restraint law in your state?



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255 thoughts on “New Laws Require Dogs to Be Restrained in Vehicles”

  1. Distracted driving causes so many horrible accidents and deaths! The people who are against properly safe methods of transporting animals are probably the same ones who think children shouldn’t be required to be in safety seats too. It’s the old “my property I can do what I want with it” “I’m American don’t mess with my freedom” attitudes.

    I just wish that the laws and law enforcement would pay more serious attention to the terrible problem so widespread of dogs left in cars on even warm days much less hot days. It can’t be that people don’t know by now what can happen to a live creature stuck in a car that quickly becomes a lethal oven even eventually in outdoor temperatures as low as 72 degrees if it’s sitting in the sun – there’s just too much publicity about the problem, and if they know and are doing it anyway it’s deliberate cruelty. But it’s far easier for law enforcement to glance over at a car at a stoplight (for example) and peek to see if the dog is crated or in a dog seat belt and write a fast ticket that gains the city or county immediate revenue than it is to respond to an urgent call about a dog in distress in a hot car, break open the car, cite the owner if one shows up, arrange for transport of the dog to emergency vet care and the car to be towed, then piles and piles AND PILES of paperwork to be completed. Doggone that kind of stuff just gets too much in the way of coffee and donut time.

    • Just heard on the radio about a 10 mo. old baby rescued from a locked car in a mall parking lot. When I lived in Carolina 10+ years ago there were many stories in the news about kids left in cars, including some that died in the summer. If some people can forget, or think it will be fine, their children, why would we expect different for their dogs?

  2. I worked for many years with attorneys representing people badly injured in car accidents-and most of the people causing the accidents were distracted drivers doing incredibly stupid things! Driving a car is a privilege not a constitutionally granted American “right” and to earn that privilege means to transport yourself and your passengers, two- or four-footed, safely while paying attention to others on the road who are or should be doing the same thing – paying attention to the task at hand which is or should be DRIVING SAFELY. Anything that gets in the way of paying attention at the wheel is NOT a good thing. Do the whiners who are against safe driving laws not get that a loose animal (or child for that matter) in a vehicle can become a projectile? DO YOU KNOW WHAT AN ANIMAL THAT GOES THROUGH A WINDSHIELD LOOKS LIKE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF SAID WINDSHIELD??

  3. A claim such as “36 million dogs’ lives are at risk” every month is an outright lie, and a hysterical one at that. That claim automatically assumes that there is a significant accident risk to begin with. Suppose there were only a 1 in 1000 risk of a bad auto accident every time you traveled with your dog. In that case, only 36,000 dogs’ lives would be at risk every month. I think it’s gross and disgusting the way people with an extremist agenda lie and manipulate phony statistics to push through laws that destroy our freedoms. If the claim of 36 million dogs being in jeopardy were true, we’d see a bloodbath of dead dogs on the roads of America, which is obviously not the case at all.

    Doesn’t anyone think that it’s a bit funny that New Jersey doesn’t even require a HUMAN in the back seat to wear a seat belt, but a dog has to?

    • Hmmm? Thats Interesting no sit belt for back passengers but yes for dogs….
      I agree with this doggie law is to protect them from bad drivers out there!
      All it matter is that laws are trying to be strict about animals bc all this ignorance abuse to them so lets support so Ignorant ppl can see that animals are not toys and take it more serious!
      For God sake there are sO many animals mistreated everyday! ;'(

  4. Michelle I agree with you 100%. government needs to quit legislating every area of our lives and stop making laws that most people can’t possibly abide by like this stupid proposal.

    • Is also to protect the dogs in case of an accident where they can fly out of the car. I treat my dog as i treat my child
      So why not for them to be protected too!

    • To require that every dog be restrained is a bit much but I think it should be illegal to have them on your lap or in the bed of a pick up. I tried it once & found it difficult to use the steering wheel properly & saw that it could definitely cause an accident. My 15 pound dog lays quietly on the passenger seat & even before I learned of this law I planned on getting a restraint cuz I don’t want him getting hurt if I stop short.

  5. “That which governs least governs best…” This is nonsense power-bullying.

    It’s time we people become the decision making process instead of allowing power-grabbing psychopaths dictate all aspects of our lives. As responsible loving pet owners, it’s only common sense that we must ensure the safety of our companion animals in our vehicles and those of others on the road.

    We certainly don’t need “big brother” telling us how to conduct our pets inside our private vehicles on the roads….this is an invasion of privacy and rights.

    • Jo,
      This law is NOT for the responsible pet owner. It is for all the ignorant people that think nothing of riding with their dog in the back of a pick up truck unrestrained, riding with their “lap” dog in their lap doing 65 mph down the hwy, letting their dog run free all over the car, distracting the driver, etc…
      If you are already buckling up your pup then what is the problem with this law?
      If children are not allowed to ride unrestrained then why should a pet be? Have you seen a dog that has gone through the windshield to it’s death? It is not a pretty sight.

      • I once was driving down the highway when I saw a car on the shoulder & a woman frantic in the middle of the highway. Then I noticed a medium-sized dog laying stiff in the road on its back. I don’t know how it happened, but perhaps the dog had its paws near the window button & accidentally opened it & fell out. It could have happened from the back seat where driver didn’t have enough time to react. Anyway, I was heartbroken for her. I don’t know if the dog survived or not. If nothing else, it’s a case for locking the back windows for your dog!

      • Actually, look at the penalties for things in NJ…… In Michigan, it’s $25 fine for leaving your pet in a vehicle unattented. In NJ, it’s $250 to $1000.

        It’s all about money and that’s basically it. A way to get money from the public and make it as if they have your best interests at heart. Meanwhile, you can go to PA right next door and have lower taxes, lower fines, and a more affordable way of life.

        The government doesn’t seem to be able to pay for it’s entitlements so this is what usually ends up coming about. There, it was a $175 fine per document that you didn’t have if you were pulled over. If you didn’t have a license, registration, and insurance card, you got $515 in one shot. If you were in a “safety corridor”, it was doubled.

        It’s all about money.


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