*Fair warning, this is an issue I am extremely passionate about. This is just a vent at the various comments that I saw while researching pet restraint laws.*

I am fully against animals being allowed loose in a vehicle. I feel it should be illegal to have your dog roaming freely about, especially your lap - no matter the size. I'm annoyed when others drive around with their little tea-cup sized poodle in their lap, their cat chilling on the passenger seat, or their fur child (who does rank higher than I in the family hierarchy) acting as navigator from the backseat. Yes, I understand that there are emergency scenarios, like immediate evacuation from your home and the quickest thing you can do is toss everything in your car (free roaming children, pets, and spouses included), this vent is not about those scenarios (though, you should always plan for likely disasters). And no, I don't have a solution for people who have extremely pony-sized large breed dogs, but would be willing to listen to ideas and also, not to be modest, but the human race I'm part of has the amazing ability to think of some pretty nifty things when motivated. 

First, let's address the issue of safety. There's the concern of you, your occupants, and your pet's safety should there be an accident. I was in a car accident in high school because a man had his dog running loose in the car and it got in his way. Not only so my step-father's truck totaled, I still have knee problems where I collided with the dash of the truck console - and that was a good ten years ago. The man in question, ended up having his license seized and I believe he may have also lost the dog too (as in taken from him, pretty sure it didn't die). As it was the dog was hurt during the accident, and hurt the driver as a projectile. "A slam on the brakes at 30 mph means a 50 pound dog could lunge forward with a force equivalent to being pushed by almost nine 170 pound men, safety researchers have calculated." "

Second, distractions, because those puppy eyes are so darn adorable! Unrestrained pets can be a distraction to drivers, just like cell phone use, adjusting the radio, eating, applying cosmetics, and many other non-driving related activities. "The American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates pets moving about in cars as the third worst distraction while driving. A recent survey by the Royal Auto Club found that nearly all drivers who traveled with their pets had been distracted by them at least once, and about 11 percent of those drivers admitted the distraction almost caused a crash."

Third, letting your dog stick his head out the window can hurt them if debris gets into their eyes or face. I've seen the crack and chip a rock can do on my windshield, would I want my dog to experience that? Sorry no added facts on this one, just plain ol' common sense, in my opinion. 


The American Kennel Club also recommends keeping dogs in cars restrained in a crate or harness attached to a seat belt.

The American Automobile Association recently released a survey that said 56 percent of pet owners drove with their pets at least once a month but only 16 percent used any type of restraint, such as a harness or a crate. Drive-time activities with the pets included:

  • Petting: 52 percent
  • Restraining pet while braking: 23 percent
  • Keeping the pet out of the front seat: 19 percent
  • Reaching into the backseat for pet: 18 percent
  • Allowing the dog in the driver’s lap: 17 percent
  • Feeding the dog: 17 percent


Facts About Pet Restraint and Auto Safety

  • In a vehicle collision, an unrestrained 60-pound pet becomes a 2,700 pound projectile, at just 35mph.
  • According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3331 people lost their lives and over 387,000 were injured in accidents involving distracted driving in 2011.
  • Pet travel has increased 300% since 2005. The American Pet Products Association (APPA) reports that approximately 78 million dogs reside in more than 46 million U.S. households; and a Kurgo/AAA study (2010-2011) revealed that nearly 60% of respondents had driven with their dogs at least once a month while only 16% used any form of pet restraint and almost 30% of the respondents admitted to being distracted by their dog while traveling in the vehicle.
  • Unrestrained pets delay emergency workers' post-accident access to human occupants, since frightened and/or injured pets may attack or bite first responders and rescue workers.
  • Pets may escape the vehicle and may even run into the roadway, posing a danger to themselves as well as those who must chase them.


If you didn't know several states have passed laws against a free-roaming dog in the car and several states forbid dogs in an open bed truck/vehicle. New Jersey has passed a law that allows people to be ticketed for improperly restraining their pet, to include forbidding dogs from hanging out windows – and also from riding in the bed of a pickup truck. "In Massachusetts, it is against the law for an operator of a motor vehicle to allow anything in or on the vehicle that "may interfere with or impede the proper operation of the vehicle…"" Also, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, California, Maine, Oregon, Washington, Florida and Rhode Island restrict dogs from trucks or open vehicles.


Always check with your state about the laws regarding pet restraints, and check often because laws do get updated and changed. God forbid, you are in an accident, your hurt, a loved one is hurt, and/or your dog is hurt - and then the police cite you for negligent/distracted driving.

Personally, I'm in favor of a travel crate, something slightly smaller than your home crate. Allows the dog freedom, but she can't frog-leg in the crate. Someone on the forums recommended Variocage, but I have not yet looked into it. Reminds me of a hamster cage, personally. Yikes, look at the price on that....well now. Right now, I have my eye on a  Ruff Tough Kennels medium dog crate, just based off of the YouTube videos of comparisons with plastic kennels, but would need to save up for that one. (These are no endorsements, just observations). 

Another thing to be aware of, should you restrain your pet with a seat belt-style harness, please remember that there is no guidelines or regulations on how this devices are made. "Of four of the leading dog car harness brands, none held up in tests. All of them demonstrated that they either could lead to plausibly serious or fatal injuries for not only the canine but driver, too. A 55-pound crash dummy dog was used to see how the seat belts would hold up in a collision at 30 miles per hour, patterning the same motor vehicle safety standards used to test child seats."

I don't think this means you shouldn't use a seat belt restraint system, as the devices have been able to reduce distracted driving, you just need to be aware this isn't a fool proof system yet. Please remember that this test was only conducted on FOUR different brands, I know when I go to the pet store there are at least 6 or more types. There were some comments that the test may not have included the German Allsafe Harness, which might be pretty good, but I don't own one. 

Arguments:

"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"

 - How are Earth can people not abide by this? You're strapped in? Your occupants and kids are strapped in? There is absolutely no real reason that a person cannot abide by a law that encourages proper restraint. There are harness and crates. The issue of pet restraint affects not only the driver but others on the road, that is why the Government does want to regulate this issue -- safety! 

"Consider this: legally your dog is considered property. If someone causes harm or death to your dog, you can not sue them in NJ for punitive or emotional damages. Your vacuum cleaner is also property. So, if your vacuum cleaner flies through a window because it is unrestrained, well, what about that? The government should mind it's own business"

- That's your parallel? My dog is my property as is my ...vacuum cleaner. Oh boy. This argument is invalid because in either case the owner of the property is responsible for the property in question. If you failed to adhere the proper amount of due care to restrain your property, you are possibly guilty of negligence. Due care is performing the ongoing maintenance necessary to keep something in proper working order, or to abide by what is commonly expected in a situation (for example, commonly expected to properly tie down/restraint objects that may pose a risk to others while driving.)  If you dog bites someone, you are responsible as the dog's owner (since s/he is your property). Your vacuum goes flying out the back of your trunk and causes an accident, you bet you're liable! 

"My dog has been a perfect passenger in my NJ car. Now I have to "punish" him because of some moron politicians? "

- Let's get this straight, this is NOT about punishment. You are NOT punishing your dog when you are trying to keep them safe. This is nearly the same argument that people who support crate training go through. You are obviously a loving owner who wants to be with your pet, but confining your dog for it's (and your) safety is not inhumane, abuse, or punishment. 

"I did [try a harness or other restraint system] once til she got tangled up and never did after. It’s soo unnatural and bizarre"

- Everything is unnatural the first time around for some pups/people. This is why some dogs need to learn leash training and some pick it up without much effort. Effective training will help reduce the risk of these things happening and also let owners be aware that the harness leash/clip might have too much slack for your pup and to adjust accordingly. 

"Our [insert pony-sized breed] sits quietly behind the seat, how can you make us restrain that?"

- I can't. And I don't have any ideas without seeing your individual vehicle. Maybe a doggy grate? Maybe a harness hooked up to a child-seat protector anchor? All I know is that pony is gonna try to fly during an accident and you've got to figure out how to say "no, Pegasus, no." This is your pet's life, your life, other's lives, if you don't at least try to keep them safe, then I don't know what to think of you. 



Here are some links about discouraging loose dogs and potential state laws:

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Comment by Jane Christensen on December 27, 2013 at 12:32pm

I agree that dogs do need crates or to be restrained. Mine get crated but my Aussie is too big but he has been trained to stay in the back seat.

I hate the idea of dogs in the back of trucks:(

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