Whether it is running errands, going to the park or going on a trip with your dog, it is important to safely and legally restrain your dog.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates pets moving around in cars as the third highest distraction while driving. Unrestrained dogs are unable to brace themselves against swerves and turns; a dog can be thrown against dashboards, windows or floors. Safety researchers have estimated that slamming on the brakes at 30 mph with an unrestrained 50 pound dog equals a force equivalent to being pushed by almost nine 170 pound men.
Dogs riding in the front seat can be seriously hurt if the airbags deploy. Drivers should never allow pets to sit in their laps or in the front seat. The dog can interfere with driving or get in the way of the gas and brake pedals. Secure your dog in the back seat with a pet travel safety harness or car seat, or in a pet carrier fastened to a seatbelt. If you drive an SUV, install a pet barrier to keep the dog in the back area of the vehicle as well as securing him in his harness and attaching it to the hooks in the floor. Crates or sturdy pet carriers are also an effective way to restrain pets.
If you must transport your dog in the bed of a pickup, use a crate or carrier secured to the truck bed to prevent him from being thrown into traffic at a sudden stop. Do not allow your dog to ride with his head out the window. Road debris and other flying objects can injure his eyes.
In many states, 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.”
A police 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.
- Restraint rule.–A person who drives a motor vehicle in which a pet is transported shall restrain the movement of the pet in the vehicle.
- Head out window.–A person who drives a motor vehicle in which a pet is transported shall ensure that the entire body, including the head of the pet remains entirely inside the vehicle.
- Permissible restraint systems.–A pet may be restrained within a motor vehicle by one or a combination of the following means:
- A latched crate or carrier box which is installed in a manner which prevents it from becoming a moving projectile.
- A pet seat belt system.
- If the pet is a dog, a dog gate which separates the driver’s area of the motor vehicle from the area in which the dog is confined.
- Except as provided in paragraph (2), a person who fails to comply with the provisions of this section commits a summary offense, resulting in a fine of $300.00
- When a person’s failure to comply with this section results in a motor vehicle accident, the person commits a misdemeanor of the third degree, resulting in a $2500.00 fine.
In addition to our area, Arizona, Connecticut and Maine have distracted-driving laws that can be used to charge drivers with pets on their laps. Hawaii explicitly forbids drivers from holding a pet on their lap, and in Rhode Island a proposed legislation would make having a dog in your lap a distracted-driving violation.
Jeri Wagner is a canine behavioral therapist and master trainer. Jeri uses a natural training system leveraging the same communication methods – body language and voice control – that dogs follow as part of their instinctive pack mentality. Training takes place in the home where the problems generally occur. Jeri trains in western Montgomery county and northern Chester County. For more information, call 1-877-500 BARK (2275) or visit www.barkbusters.com.
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