Our dogs are our family members. They travel with us to their medical appointments, for baths and grooming and to fun-filled days at the park. But did you know New Jersey has laws to protect how dogs are transported in our motor vehicles? Police officers have the right to stop any driver, at any time, if they feel a dog is not being transported properly ad may accesses fines ranging from $250 to $1,000.
You’re probably thinking the law is for the prevention of dogs riding in the back beds of pick-up trucks – and you’d be partially correct with that thinking. However, the law also applies to how dogs are transported INSIDE cars and forbids dogs from hanging out windows and riding on drivers’ laps. Pets must be properly restrained at all times either by buckling them up with restraints properly designed for dogs or safely stowed in crates.
Avoid Injury to Your Fur-Baby and Other Passengers
At 35 mph or 50 mph, your dog can suffer serious internal injuries if thrown off the seat due to quick braking or if an accident occurs. And just as we learned in science class in school, “an object in motion remains in motion.” Your dog also becomes a dangerous projectile object that can cause harm to other passengers within the vehicle.
Just like texting and driving, an unrestrained dog is also a distraction to a driver. Flying debris or insects can injure your dog’s eyes if he puts his head out the window. No one denies it’s adorable when a small dog wants to ride on the driver’s lap, but this cute action has shown to cause harm. A small dog can cause issues with steering or they can quickly fall to the floor and hinder your ability to hit the brakes or the accelerator. Finally, the impact from the deployment of your vehicle’s airbag could kill your dog.
First Responders / Emergency Personnel Risk
Your dog loves you. After a car accident, an injured or frightened unrestrained dog may guard you by growling and snapping at first responders. Protocol is that if a first responder is bitten by a dog, they are to tend to their own injury or that of a colleague’s first before assisting the victims of a car accident. Additionally, dogs do not understand that people on the scene (such as tow truck operators) are there to help you. If your dog bites someone this could cause another level of legal liability for you in addition to the car accident.
Your Dog Could Run Into Traffic
If your dog is unrestrained, they can escape after a car accident scene and cause a secondary accident when another car tries to swerve to keep from striking them – making a horrible situation worse. Damages from this type of accident may or may not be covered by your insurance carrier.
What Can You Do?
Dog Seat Belts or Harnesses
The rest of the family wears a seat belt, and this family member needs one, too! A good fitting canine “seat belt” can restrain your pup and help prevent injuries. The seat belt will keep them secure and you can crack the window so they can still see the sights and smell all that amazing smells.
A dog seat belt is made of adjustable straps that fit all varieties of dogs. Owners can purchase different types of seat belt harnesses that wrap around a dog’s body and attach to the seat belt in your car. The safest place for a seat belted dog is in the middle back seat.
Crate Your Pets
Crates and carriers also work really well for small dogs. There are travel versions with covers and flaps that allow you to limit how much your pet can see if traveling makes them nervous or if they get motion sickness, but still provide plenty of space and ventilation. Be sure to fasten the seat belt around the crate or carrier, or your pet won’t be protected in an accident.
Enjoy the car ride to the park this summer and buckle up!