Our dogs all have the dream of riding shotgun in our car, head out the open window with the wind blowing their ears back. We might share that same dream with our dogs only with them sitting on our laps as we navigate the backcountry roads or busy city streets.
Either scenario may end less than dreamlike if your pooch isn’t properly restrained with a dog seatbelt.
While laws governing the use of seatbelts for our dogs vary state by state and country by country, the use of them greatly decreases distracted driving and potential accidents. Read on to determine if you’re meeting your state’s requirements and driving with your dog as safely as possible.
Are Dog Seatbelts Required by Law?
The answer to this is it varies by the state that you’re in.
Not only is it important to know your home state’s dog seatbelt laws, it’s also a good idea to look into any state that you’re traveling to in order to make sure you’re correctly abiding all regulations.
What you’ll find is that most states don’t have a dog seat belt law per se, but do have some sort of regulation for restraining dogs inside or outside of a vehicle. If your state is not on this list that doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all, any accident that is somehow due to driving with an unrestrained dog could still result in a citation.
Some form of restraint is best for the safety of you and your pup.
Connecticut: Your best friend doesn’t have to wear a dog seat belt, but he sure can’t be on your lap. Drivers with dogs on their laps can be charged with distracted driving in this state. Also, dogs riding in the back of an open truck need to have some sort of restraint or cage to prevent them from being thrown out.
Hawaii: Another no-dogs-in-the-driver’s lap state. Not following this regulation can cause drivers to be charged under obstruction to driver’s view or driving mechanism laws.
Maine: Your pup doesn’t necessarily need a dog seat belt in this state, but you could be charged with distracted driving if he rides on your lap. Dogs riding in the open bed of a truck need some form of restraint that prevents them from being thrown from the vehicle.
Massachusetts: Massachusetts keeps their dog seatbelt laws a little vague, but be aware that pets on your lap could constitute distracted driving. Dogs in the back of an open truck bed will also need to be restrained to prevent being thrown from the vehicle. While dog seat belts aren’t mentioned, drivers can be fined or jailed for transporting animals in an ‘unnecessarily cruel or inhumane manner,’ so carefully choose your restraints to avoid an issue.
Minnesota: Look to get a misdemeanor offense in this state if you drive with your dog unrestrained in an open truck bed.
New Hampshire: To prevent being thrown out of an open truck bed, your pup needs to be properly restrained in the state of New Hampshire.
New Jersey: One of the only states to require seat belts, dogs in New Jersey need to be restrained in a crate or with a dog seat belt in all moving vehicles in order to comply with traffic laws.
North Dakota: North Dakota has a little different take on dog seatbelt laws. This state maintains that transporting dogs without proper carrying containers is animal cruelty.
Rhode Island: Dogs need to have some form of restraint when traveling in this state. That restraint can be seat belts, crates, dog car harnesses, or a person other than the driver.
Let’s also look at some international laws for dog seatbelts in case you get to bring your best friend abroad.
United Kingdom: Driving with an unrestrained pet in the UK? Think again. As part of the Highway Code, drivers with unrestrained pets can be subject to heavy fines. Animals need to be restrained with a seat belt harness, pet carrier, or pet cage in order to prevent distracted driving and to ensure the welfare of the animal. Car insurance companies in the UK also warn that accidents caused by unrestrained pets may not be covered.
Australia: Australia is another country that has taken unrestrained dogs while driving very seriously. Drivers in this country face heavy fines and demerit points on their license if they are caught driving with a dog on their lap or between them and the handlebars of their motorcycle. Dogs are also to be restrained with a tether or cage when riding on a ute and relegated to an appropriate area of the vehicle. Dogs also are not to be led by the driver or passenger of a car, bicycle or motorcycle while the vehicle is moving. Not only can drivers be hit with distracted driving fines, they can also be subjected to jail time and even heavier fines if an unrestrained animal is injured in a traffic accident.
Pet Safety and Distracted Driving
When traveling in your car with your dog, there are many factors at risk.
Let’s put all of the legal matters aside and focus on the safety of your dog and you. Driving with your dog on your lap or even unrestrained in your back seat can be as distracting as texting or talking on your cell phone.
Many drivers admit to taking pictures of their dog, petting him, tossing him a treat, or allowing their dog to somehow inhibit their driving. Not only is this potentially dangerous to other drivers on the road, it’s dangerous to your pup and other passengers in your car.
Let’s get away from the detriment that unrestrained dogs can have on your pocket book and look at another side of it. According to Bark Buckle UP a 60 pound dog when driving at a speed of 35 mph causes an impact of 2,700 pounds if you have to slam on your brakes suddenly.
Not only is this bad for your pooch, it’s also bad for anybody or anything in your dog’s flight path.
There’s enough to worry about if you were to get into any kind of car accident, no matter what the cause. For your dog’s safety and yours, use some kind of dog safety restraint in any moving vehicle.
Are Dog Seatbelts Really Safe?
Hopefully you’re convinced that the safest way for a dog to ride in a car is with the use of restraints.
So which form is best?
A lot of that will depend on your car and your dog. Some cars won’t accommodate crates and car seats for large dogs, so your best option might be a dog seat belt.
You might be thinking okay, this seems pretty easy. Just slip your car’s seat belt through your dog’s collar or regular harness and you’ve got it made; not quite. While this option will help keep your pup off your lap while driving, it won’t help much in the case of an accident.
For maximum protection of your dog, use a proper dog car safety harness. These harnesses have more of a full body coverage and connect to your car’s seat belt at more than one point. This means that should you slam on your brakes, the force of that will be spread out over a larger area instead of focusing on one single point.
In short, this means less discomfort for your pup. Multiple connection points also will help keep your dog from getting twisted around in the seatbelt in cases of rollovers.
Dog seat belts are a great option for your medium to large dogs. Smaller dogs may be safer in a dog car seat or a dog carrier with a seat belt clip.
If you choose either of these options, make sure your dog is safely restrained to the car seat or inside the carrier so that she won’t get thrown around and injured. Also, if feasible, pups should ride in the backseat for maximum safety.
What is a Dog Seat Belt Anyway?
After reading all of the above, you might still not have a clear picture of what a dog seat belt really is, so here’s a little description.
Dog seat belts come in different styles but the premise is the same. They attach your dog’s collar or harness to your car’s seat. Some clip into the seat belt buckle while others loop around the car seat’s headrest. They can be adjustable in length to accommodate different sized dogs and some have a little bungie effect to them so that your dog can stand up, sit down, or turn around without pulling or tangling in the dog seat belt.
Dog seat belts can be used with any collar or harness but work best with a full body harness that encircles the neck and chest.
Whether your best friend is a frequent road tripper or an only-when-necessary traveler, proper restraint is a must in any moving vehicle.
Depending on where you live, proper dog restraint is not only a great safety measure, it is also the law. Using a dog seat belt is one of the safest ways for a dog to travel in a car.
Just be sure you are using the dog seat belt with the proper accessories and try to refrain from taking pooch selfies until you safely reach your destination.