By Dr. Becker
A New Jersey assemblywoman has introduced a state bill that if passed would require drivers to secure dogs and cats not in crates with a seatbelt-style harness, or face a minimum $25 ticket. Worst-case scenarios, such as a dog riding unrestrained in the back of a pickup truck, could result in an animal-cruelty charge that carries fines of up to $1,000.
The assemblywoman and pet owner, L. Grace Spencer, who is also a liability-law attorney, says the bill will protect both humans and animals traveling the roadways. Spencer says securing pets is an important issue – more important than people realize.
“We didn’t think that texting was so big of an issue until people started dying,” she said.
New Jersey isn’t the only state attempting to regulate how people transport animals in vehicles. Last year, Tennessee passed a bill making it a misdemeanor to travel with an unrestrained pet in the front seat. According to ABCNews.com, Hawaii, Connecticut, Illinois and Maine prohibit motorists from driving with pets in their laps.
As pet owners, we understand the risks...
State laws like the one Ms. Spencer has introduced have both fans and detractors, but no matter which side of the argument you’re on, as pet owners, most of us understand the risks we run when we drive around with a dog or cat loose in the car.
Many pet owners have unfortunately learned the hard way the importance of buckling up their pet just as human family members buckle up during car trips.
According to Jennifer Huebner, AAA National Traffic Safety Programs Manager, who was interviewed for CNNMoney.com:
"An unrestrained 10-pound dog in a crash at 50 mph will exert roughly 500 pounds of pressure, while an unrestrained 80-pound dog in a crash at only 30 mph will exert 2,400 pounds of pressure. Imagine the devastation that can cause to your pet and anyone in the vehicle."
So perhaps a brand new year is a good time to start a brand new habit of restraining your pet whenever he or she is in a moving vehicle.
Types of Restraints
Clearly, a cat can’t be safely buckled or harnessed in, so I always recommend cat owners use a crate for travel with their pet. You can also crate your dog for car rides, as it is ultimately the safest method of restraining a pet. Crates can also work well for dogs that either don’t take many car rides, or don’t enjoy being in a moving vehicle. But if your dog loves the car and you’re looking for a way to secure him while he’s seated, able to look out the window and smell the world go by (but not stick his head out, please), there are several options to consider.
There are many styles of seat belt harnesses that go around your dog’s body and secure him in the seat of the car. There are also tethers that attach to a harness and allow him a bit of mobility in the backseat. You’ve probably also seen those little booster seats that lift smaller dogs up so they can see out the window while also keeping them secure.
Other methods of restraint include:
- Barriers that confine your dog to the cargo area of your SUV or van
- Seat belts designed to secure a crate and keep it from moving during travel
- Backseat barriers, bridges and hammocks
Restraining your pet not only helps keeps her safe in an accident, it can also prevent her from losing her balance during braking, turning, acceleration or sudden stops. And a restraint also eliminates the risk your pet might jump or fall out an open window.