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  • Writer's pictureDana Leonard

Riding In Cars With Dogs

It’s a known fact that humans like to travel with their animals. Dogs especially are great travel companions. Long trips or short you still have to keep safety in mind. Many people however, are unaware of some of the dog-in-car laws.

Dog restraint laws

Generally, laws are put in place to protect dogs, drivers, passengers and others on the road. Dogs can be huge distractions to drivers, and quickly become a hazard if unrestrained. There are many different restraint methods which are recommended, including crates, dog seat belts, and dog car harnesses.

Many states are now adopting laws for safety, but can be rather ambiguous with specifics. For example, in many states in the US the law does not specify that dogs must be restrained within a moving vehicle. However, there are laws that ban distracted driving. There have been many cases where unrestrained dogs have led to drivers facing a fine for distracted driving. A law enforcement officer may choose to charge any driver they believe does not have proper control of their vehicle due to a loose dog.

Some of the states that do have dog restraint laws include: (Go Pet Friendly, 2019)

New Jersey – Pets in moving vehicles must be secured in a carrier or wear a seat belt, fines could be $250-$1000

Rhode Island - Pets in vehicles must be under the physical control of a person other than the driver, or be restrained by crates, harnesses, seat belts. Violations carry fines up to $200

Although the following states don’t require pets to be restrained, they have enacted laws that could provide consequences for transporting unrestrained pets.

Arizona - distracted driving laws if they drive with an animal in their lap, or if a police officer determines the transportation method creates an unsafe situation.

Connecticut - distracted driving laws if they drive with a pet in their lap.

Hawaii - drivers cannot hold in their lap, or allow to be in their immediate area, any person, animal.

Iowa - driving with an obstructed view is an operating violation that may carry a fine. And certainly having a pet on your lap could obstruct your view.

Maine - risk violating distracted-driving laws if they drive with a pet in their lap.

Massachusetts it is unlawful for drivers to allow anything on or in the vehicle which might interfere with or impede the proper operation of the vehicle.

South Carolina - drivers risk a ticket for negligence or another offense when driving with a pet in their lap, if an officer considers the situation unsafe.

Washington - distracted driver statute doesn’t specifically mention unrestrained pets. However, lawmakers and police officers have mentioned having a loose pet or one riding on the driver’s lap as a potential distraction — one that may be considered a secondary violation if a driver is pulled over for another reason — but would not be enough to initiate a traffic stop.

Washington D.C. - distracted driving law specifically mentions “interacting with pets” as a distraction that can result in a moving violation. The fine for a first offense is $100.

Wisconsin - driving with a pet on your lap violates the inattentive driving law.

Ambiguous State Laws Dealing With Pet Transportation

Alabama’s animal cruelty laws may be invoked if a police officer determines the manner of transporting a pet violates animal welfare laws or endangers the pet.

Mississippi makes it a misdemeanor to “carry or confine in a cruel manner,” which could apply to transporting a pet without proper attention to safety.

Ohio’s current cruelty to animals laws state that no person shall carry or convey an animal in a cruel or inhumane manner.

Oklahoma’s cruelty to animals statutes state that it is a misdemeanor to carry an animal in a vehicle in a cruel or inhumane manner.

Tennessee’s cruelty to animals statues make it illegal to transport or confine an animal in a cruel manner.

Texas state that it is an offense to transport or confine an animal in a cruel manner.

Utah’s anti-cruelty provisions, it is illegal to transport or confine an animal in a cruel manner.

Vermont’s animal health regulations and animal transportation prohibit transporting any animal in a cruel or inhumane manner.

Virginia’s laws require that owners provide adequate care for companion animals during transportation.

Washington’s animal cruelty laws make it a misdemeanor to transport animals in a way that would pose a risk to the animal or public safety.

Wisconsin’s crimes against animals statutes make it illegal to transport an animal in or on a vehicle in a cruel manner.

If you should ever decide to travel without your animals please don’t hesitate to contact Legends Pet Care Services. “We are there when you can’t be.”

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