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State Laws Require Pets To Be Restrained In Vehicles

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:

  • 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.

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.

Dog in Car

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.

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?

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.

Bumper Sticker 1

After considering the pluses and minuses, we are in favor of pet restraint legislation. Our mission at 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?

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  • Yes, in the interest of everyone’s safety, Catherine.Thanks for your note!

  • Yes all states need to pass law for dog restraints in moving cars

  • Hi Anthony. About half way down the page I found this: “Dogs in the back of pickup trucks must be properly restrained in a secured carrier or cross-tethered from three points in the truck bed to prevent them from being thrown from the truck.” Here’s the link where I found the information: hope that helps!

  • Can anyone help me find if on military instalations it is illegal to transport you pet in the bed of a truck? I know I have read it before but am now struggling to find the information.

  • Daniel J. Laflin Hi Daniel! Yes, there are some very good dog safety harnesses designed to be used in the car. They’ve even been crash-tested to ensure they’re protecting your dog in an accident. Here’s some additional information on that:…/2013-harness-crash…/We use Sleepypod harness for our dogs in the car and in the motorhome because they receive a 5-star rating from the Center for Pet Safety. If you have any questions about our experience with harnesses, let me know!

  • Cars would need a way to “seat belt” a dog… sure could put in a cage but cages are bulky…Current seat belts cant be used for such unless I’m missing something

    • Hornibrook says:

      There is a tether that hooks into the seatbelt and hooks onto a harness on the dog. It’s adjustable and inexpensive. Petco or Petsmart. My dog is so much calmer riding in the backseat in his seatbelt!

  • Thank you for sharing your experience, Dorlene. It must be terribly sad to see the things you’ve seen, and I hope your note reaches anyone who doesn’t think it’s important to buckle their pets up in the car.

  • I wish all states would have laws to restrain pets, I work in rescue can’t tell you how many injured dogs or dead dogs, and how many rescue searches we have done for the ones who jump out and are able to run adrenaline raging in them… some found and to be ok and others either hit on road somewhere else’s or never to be found. Buckle those babies up or put in plastic carriersbut make sure you use zip ties as well on all clamps around carrier even when flying a pet, so many have been lost at airports as well.

  • As long as you’re using a good, crash-tested seat belt harness, like the ones we use from Sleepypod, and the airbag is deactivated, I think you’re doing as much as you can to keep your pup safe, Ellen. Waggin’ trails!

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