Toys & Activities

Should Driving With A Dog On Your Lap Or Unrestrained In Your Car Be Against The Law?

jersey-dog-riding-in-the-car-florida.jpg If you drive with your dog unrestrained in your car (which means the dog has the freedom to roam from your lap… to the back seat… front seat… and from window to window) and you live in California, then you may be breaking the law.

That is, if a bill sponsored by Bill Maze in the California state legislature passes. On May 5th, it passed in the California Assembly with a 44-11 vote. (UPDATE: Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed it.) 

You have a potential major risk of an auto accident when you have a live pet that can be around in your face, in the steering wheel, down on the floor under your feet,” Maze said Friday. “Pets have a mind of their own and are unpredictable.” Source

I have to say, as much as I have been guilty of doing this in the past, I think driving with lapdogs should be outlawed… and in all states.


My Experiences Driving With Lapdogs

Yes, before I became an informed pet parent, I used to drive freely with my dog, unrestrained and riding on my lap, in my car.

Jersey, my American Eskimo dog, usually stayed in the front seat next to me, peering out of his own window the entire time. (But when he was a little puppy, I purposely encouraged him to ride on my lap while I drove.)

I have to admit, I thought it was “cute”, and it seemed “fun” when he would crawl onto my lap to look out my window for a change of scenery. It made driving so much more enjoyable — especially on long drives out in the country. (Though we did this when in-town driving, as well.)

Fortunately, Jersey wasn’t a hyper dog, so he didn’t run from window to window or pace back & forth while I was driving. But still… I know now him being unrestrained was dangerous — to both him and me (not to mention other drivers). And I’m lucky that we never got in an accident.

destin-and-jersey-dogs-in-the-car.jpg Years later, after I got married and we acquired another dog (Destin), Jersey lost his privileges for front-seat riding in the car. Now, both dogs were confined to the back seat. But they still had free roam of the entire backseat; they were not restrained. Fortunately, each of them pretty much sat still and gazed out of their own window most of the time.

But it’s a fact… you, your dog, and even other drivers can actually be placed in danger when your dogs are unrestrained in the backseat, too. Here’s how. (Hint: My dog fell out of the window and could’ve caused a wreck. Or, worse yet, injury to the dog…)

tenor-restrained-in-jeep-wrangler.jpg Fast-forward another few years, and our newest puppy, Tenor (now the only dog in our home) has never had the “privilege” of riding in the car unrestrained. I’m embarrassed, though proud to say, that from the day that our Black Lab fell out of the car window, all of our dogs have been safely restrained any time they’re riding in the car. It’s a lesson we learned the hard way. (Here is Tenor’s most recent set-up in the back of the Jeep.)


Just My $.02

These experiences I’ve had are only some of the reasons I think all dogs should have to be restrained when riding in cars.

No matter which state you live in. And no matter the dog’s size. Even lapdogs can become spooked, become interested in another dog or person in a vehicle, or get hurt if you have to stop suddenly or get in an accident. Not to mention the fact that dogs of all sizes — yes, even lap dogs — can be a huge source of distraction to the driver. (I’ve done it, I know.)

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Los Angeles has been lobbying for years to get the state Legislature to pass measures along the lines of Maze’s bill. “They can become projectile missiles during a short stop,” says Madeleine Bernstein, president of the SPCA branch. “They can cause an accident. They can impair your ability to react to an accident. They can distract you. And they can get hurt.” Source

More tips for dogs riding in cars (and Jeeps).