N.J. considers seat belt law for pets

WASHINGTON – The Garden State is considering a seat belt law for pets, and even though New Jersey’s own governor thinks the state is going to the dogs simply by contemplating the bill, voters there seem to support the concept.

Under legislation filed in July, pets would have to be secured in a dog seat belt, a crate or carry-on. Rover could not hang his head out the window, nor would FiFi be allowed to sit on a driver’s lap in New Jersey, or drivers would face a $20 fine.

Drivers who do not secure their pets also would violate the state’s animal cruelty laws and could face a fine of $250 to $1,000 in addition to the initial ticket.

(What do you think about the proposal? Take our poll below.)

A survey by AAA last year found that 83 percent of drivers riding with their pet recognize them as a potential distraction. But only 16 percent used some kind of pet restraint.

Animals can be injured, just like humans, during a crash. Slamming on the brakes when driving 35 mph would send a 60-pound, unrestrained dog slamming into a car seat, windshield or a passenger, the Daily Mail reports, citing Bark Buckle UP, a California-based educational pet travel site.

(Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Bark Buckle UP as a San Diego-based nonprofit. The educational site is not a nonprofit and is based in California, but not San Diego.)

The proposed New Jersey law also would apply to visitors who are driving through the state.

A recent poll found that New Jersey voters narrowly support the concept. According to Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind poll, 45 percent of registered voters in the state support the law, with 40 percent opposing it. The poll had a margin of error of +/-3.3 percentage points.

According to a PublicMind press release, New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals officials said that failure to restrain animals would be construed as animal cruelty, subject to criminal fines and penalties under current law.

An opposing bill also has been filed that would clarify that driving with an unrestrained dog does not constitute cruelty to animals.

Bloomberg News reports that Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, says he would not sign such a bill into law if one ever made it to his desk.

WTOP’s Randi Martin contributed to this story. Follow WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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