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Driving With Unrestrained Pets

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We bring our dogs everywhere and many of us wouldn’t consider a road trip without our trusty canine co-pilot. However, a growing number of states are enacting laws that require pets be in seatbelts, an approved carrier or in the back seats. While Wisconsin doesn’t have such laws yet, that’s not to say it isn’t on the horizon. With the growing focus on “Distracted Driving” from use of cell phones and other technology, the topic of unrestrained pets is one that will continue to be discussed.


A loose pet in a vehicle can also be a dangerous distraction. Additionally, an unsecured pet can become a projectile in the event of an accident or sudden stop, which can cause serious injury—or death—to the pet and passengers in the car. In a collision at 50 mph, an unrestrained 10-pound dog will hit you with about 500 pounds of force – more than enough to do serious damage to you and the dog

While several states ban the cruel or inhumane transportation of animals, what constitutes cruelty isn’t always clear. The language surrounding dogs in truck beds is easier to understand in some cases—states including Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Minnesota have laws in place to ensure dogs in open truck beds are properly contained in a sturdy crate or cross-tethered. Regardless of the law, the safest way for your dog to travel is secured with a dog seat belt harness or in a crate. And, if you get pulled over for swerving, speeding, or other faults caused by the distraction of a dog, you can still be ticketed for dangerous driving.

According to a recent AAA study 56% of respondents had driven with their dog in a vehicle at least once per month over the past year. Of those respondents, only 16% of owners who had driven with their pet used some form of restraint for the dog in the vehicle. A shocking 83% of those responding agreed that having their unrestrained pet in the car was dangerous.

The American Pet Products Association determined that 78 million dogs reside in US households. So, if 56% of those 78 million dogs are going for a ride at least once a month … that’s 43,680,000 dogs traveling in vehicles and only 16% are buckled up.

The goal of these states is not to save the lives of our pets … though it will be a nice side effect. The main focus of the legislation is to protect human’s lives – the pet owners’ and everyone else on the road. Preventing your canine companion from distracting you while on the road—and keeping them safe for the drive—can be as simple as using a seat belt harness or securing your dog in a crate while in a vehicle. If you have a pet who likes to travel with you, talk to you veterinarian and see what the recommend when it comes to restraining your pet and keeping everyone safe.

If you or a family member is involved in an accident, contact our offices. For over 40 years we have worked one-on-one with our clients to ensure they receive the very best legal representation and compensation available.