Laws on Transporting Dogs in Cars

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Dogs are part of the family, so they love going where we go. But when it comes to dogs in cars, laws are in place to make time on the road with your pet safer for everyone involved. Most regard animals left in parked vehicles. Several states have laws governing how dogs travel in open beds of pickup trucks and a few cover unrestrained pets in vehicle interiors under distracted driving laws.

Most dogs love to travel.
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Regardless of the legislation, safety tips will make traveling a fun, worry-free adventure for both you and your pet.

Parked cars are dangerous

Nearly all laws about dog transport pertain to leaving pets in parked cars. Parked vehicles can heat up quickly, even in relatively mild weather. With rising temperatures and improper ventilation, your dog can die within minutes, so never leave your dog in a parked vehicle.

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Guardians can be punished for leaving pets in parked vehicles under laws specific to the situation or under laws addressing cruelty to animals. And in many states, bystanders can take action to help if they see a dog left in the car.

Dogs in pickup truck beds

Letting your dog ride in the bed of a pickup truck is dangerous. The animal is at risk of being struck by a flying object, incurring an eye injury, or jumping or being thrown from the moving vehicle, which will seriously injure or kill your pet and may cause a traffic accident.

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In some states, letting your dog ride unsecured in your truck bed is illegal. California, Oregon, Minnesota, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, require dog guardians to have their pets caged or cross-tied in open pick-up truck beds. Nevada bans cruel and inhumane methods of transporting dogs and Washington bans dog transportation methods that pose a risk to public safety, but these are left open to interpretation by officers.

Laws for driving with a lap dog

According to How Stuff Works, Hawaii, New Jersey, and Maine ban driving with your pet on your lap. In Connecticut, Maine, and Massachusetts, you could be hit with a ticket for distracted driving or charged with animal cruelty for this offense. But when it comes down to it, for your dog's safety, your safety, and the safety of other drivers, you should not allow your pet to ride in the front seat regardless of your state's laws.

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If you have to make a sudden stop, your dog can be thrown through the windshield. There is the risk of your pet climbing into the driver's seat and interfering with your driving, and she could also be thrown to the floor and interfere with your access to gas and brake pedals. Airbags pose an additional risk to pets. When an airbag deploys, it has enough force to injure or kill a dog. Using a dog seatbelt harness or travel carrier can keep your canine, your family, and others on the road safe.

Loading and unloading your dog

Many animals are lost while loading or unloading from the car.
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Loading or unloading your dog from the car is an important time to pay attention to safety. Many animals are lost in this situation. Dogs may get excited or scared when in a new place, so it is imperative to keep a firm grip on your pet's leash as she is getting into or out of a vehicle.

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Before departing with your pet, ensure that she has current identification tags and is wearing them on a collar that won't come off. On the ID tag, have a telephone number at which you are easily accessible, such as your cell phone number.

Restraining your dog in the car

Some states, including New Jersey and Rhode Island, require that you restrain your pet inside a vehicle. However, even when it's not against the law, having your pets unrestrained can interfere with driving, become hazardous projectiles in an accident, or go through the windshield.

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Most pet supply stores sell dog seatbelt harnesses that double as seat belts for dogs. A pet barrier across the back seat of your vehicle is another option, or you can place your dog in a crate.

Dogs and car windows

Keep windows rolled up high enough that your dog can't squeeze through them. Dogs can squeeze through much smaller spaces than you may expect and are likely to attempt to do so — even in a moving vehicle.

Don't let your dog ride with her head hanging out the window. She is at risk from flying objects, which can cause an eye injury.

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Dog supplies for car travel

When traveling with your pet, pack all the items your dog may need.
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When traveling with your pet, pack all the items your dog may need. A bowl, food, and water should be at the top of your list. Ice chips or cubes are a good idea — they will melt and provide water to your pet along the way. Also, first aid and clean-up supplies are important to have on hand.

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When traveling a long distance, you should pack any medications your dog may need, a supply of her regular food, and her veterinary records, including a rabies vaccination certificate. Now that you're packed, educated and prepared, it's time to hit the road!

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