Yesterday USA Today published an article on the emergence of state laws requiring pets to be restrained when riding in vehicles. If you read last year’s pet travel survey by AAA and Kurgo, you might have seen this coming. The results of the survey were distressing:
The American Pet Products Association determined that 78 million dogs reside 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.
Ignoring the people putting their dogs in the back of pick-up trucks – they deserve a blog post all their own – that’s a ridiculous number of disasters waiting to happen. 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.
When we acknowledge that things are dangerous, but we do them anyway – putting the lives of others at risk – it’s time for new laws. And momentum seems to be building. Though politicians have historically avoided legislation in this territory – knowing that if they offend their dog-loving constituency, they might lose the next election – law makers in these states are now leading the way.
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. This new law recently caused our friend, TobyPup to change his travel accommodations.
Rhode Island – Democratic State Rep. Peter Palumbo has proposed legislation that would make having a dog in your lap a distracted-driving violation.
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?
The resistance to these laws comes from a “big government oppression” mentality. No one likes being told what to do – it rubs us the wrong way. But the evidence is all there … people know the risks, they even agree it’s dangerous, and yet only 16% are restraining their pets. What’s common sense for some is apparently a completely foreign concept to a majority of the population.
After considering the pluses and minuses, we are in favor of pet restraint legislation. Our mission at GoPetFriendly.com is to encourage you to travel with your pets, and we want you to be safe. You’ve heard our motto, “Seat belt for you. Seat belt for your kids. Seat belt for your pets!” Whether you choose a car harness or a secured carrier, these laws could save your life. They also protect our pets and everyone else on the road – drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists. The benefits outweigh the imposition.
Do you agree? Would you support a pet restraint law in your state?