A Guide to Dogs Seat Belt Laws: By State
A Guide to Dogs Seat Belt Laws: By State
Alex Vicente • Updated on March 21, 2023
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Many might not know the rules for keeping their dog in the vehicle with you when you’re driving, but still want them to be safe with us. Sometimes the law protects dogs, as it protects humans, with seatbelt laws.
However, these laws might vary from state to state as most do.
There are different laws in different states about dog restraints in vehicles.
Many states do not have specific laws, but some have ambiguous laws that condemn distracted driving.
You can help yourself and your dogs, despite the laws, by using recommended dog car restraint products.
You want to keep your dog safe on car rides and you want to abide by your state’s laws so everyone can be safe and happy.
The laws and regulations about dogs as vehicle passengers not only protect dogs but help the drivers to drive smoothly without distractions.
Keep reading to find out the dog seat belt laws by the different US states.
Table of Contents
Do Pets Need to Be Restrained in Cars?
Animals are potential hazards when they are passengers on the road. They can be a distraction and cause danger for drivers, other passengers, other people on the road, and for themselves too.
It is legal to travel with your pets in your car. It is how you travel with your pets that multiple states are concerned about. Ideally, you should not let your pets near the front seat, and you should keep them comfortably restrained.
It is important to keep in mind that unrestrained animals in your vehicle can be used against you if you end up being involved in an accident. For example, improper or lack of restraining of an animal while you are driving can prevent you from receiving insurance coverage.
There are some circumstances when it is best to avoid traveling with a pet, as restraining them could hurt them further:
- The pet is very injured or sick (unless being taken to a vet).
- The pet has given birth within the last few days.
- The pet is heavily pregnant (unless being taken to a vet).
- The pet is too young, such as a newborn or still needs its mother.
Moreover, you want your pet’s first journey in a vehicle to be easy and safe for them. Many animals get frightened by the noise, sudden movement, huge change in environment, and so forth. This is why pets that are first-time riders should be restrained properly.
The laws in different places about restraining pets focus on keeping both the animals and humans safe while on the road. Animals in our responsibility need attention and proper care. This is why some road laws regarding animals also stretch out to not leaving animals unattended inside cars.
Do Dogs Need to Be Restrained in Cars?
Dogs are social creatures that enjoy the outdoors, especially with their owners. Hence it is no surprise to see dogs traveling with their owners on long or short road trips. Dogs are often taken to the beaches, hiking areas, friends’ houses, vets, and just drives.
Dogs are generally energetic animals that come in various sizes. Unrestrained dogs in the car can be hazardous. The dog can become a distraction for the car’s driver. This in turn can be dangerous for the driver, other passengers in the other or other cars, and people on the road.
Here are some reasons why it is dangerous to have an unrestrained dog traveling in a car or other vehicle:
- A loose dog can distract the driver.
- A loose dog can be hurt or killed by an airbag.
- A dog with its head out the window can be harmed by debris in the road.
- A loose dog can interfere with the gear shift, pedals, or steering wheel.
- A loose dog can exacerbate a road accident.
- A loose dog can hamper emergency responders’ actions during an accident.
A survey study shows that around 83 percent of dog owners drive cars and vehicles with unrestrained dogs inside. This may seem natural and normal, but in reality, this can be problematic for dogs, dog owners, and others on the road.
Ways to Restrain Your Dog When Driving
Some say we should protect our dogs the same way we should protect our children when it comes to road safety. Many are unaware of the danger, but slowly more and more states are giving out legislation on securing dogs in moving vehicles.
There are a few different ways one can restrain a dog in a car:
- Dog seat belts
- Dog car harnesses
The above items work great to restrain dogs in cars. They keep your dog secured while preventing distractions for the driver. The general rules on restraining dogs in cars are mentioned below.
Rules and Legislations on Restraining Dogs in Cars
Many states in the USA do not have specific laws about restraining dogs while you are driving. However, the same states have strict laws against distracted driving. In many cases, an unrestrained dog in a moving vehicle can be a distraction.
The laws on distractions and restraining dogs differ from state to state. However, the basic guidelines revolve more or less around the same rules:
- You cannot have a dog on the back of an open truck when driving the truck. If you do, you must ensure the dog is safely restrained. The best method for this is to use a crate.
- You cannot transport a dog in a closed trunk.
- You cannot have your dog on your lap when you are driving.
- You cannot lead a dog that is outside your car or vehicle, while the car or vehicle is moving.
Find out the specific laws on traveling in vehicles with dogs, in detail below.
What States Have Dog Seat Belt Laws?
The laws on dog restraint in moving vehicles vary from state to state. Many states do not have any laws regarding how one can or cannot transport a dog in a vehicle. Whereas many states have ambiguous laws that do not specify dogs in vehicles but condemn distracted driving.
The following states do not allow transporting dogs in open areas of a vehicle:
- New Hampshire
- Rhode Island
These states require you to secure the dog with a dog seat belt, a crate, or such an item if the dog is to be in the open area of a moving vehicle. This is to be done in a way that restrains the dogs securely but allows them to be comfortable.
When it comes to the actual enclosed area inside the car or vehicle, most states do not have specific laws on how the dog is to be handled. However, Rhode Island demands the use of dog seat belts or other similar items and some other states ban having a dog on the driver’s lap.
Additionally, multiple states have laws against leaving dogs in unattended vehicles. These laws aim to protect dogs from intentional or unintentional harm.
Dog Seat Belt Laws By Each State
Here is a thorough list, by each state, of dog car restraint laws.
|State||Dog Car Restraint Law|
What Can You Buy to Avoid Dog Restraint Law Issues?
Whether you live in a state that does or does not have dog restraint laws in moving vehicles, you can stay safe and worry-free by investing in a dog seat belt or dog harness, or such.
There are multiple benefits of investing in one:
- You won’t be going against your state’s dog restraint laws if they exist.
- You will be prepared if you travel with your dog to a state that requires such restraint.
- You won’t have driving distractions through your pet dog.
- Your pet dog will be safer during road transports.
Luckily there is more than one option in the items that keep a dog restrained and safe during road travels. Read below to learn more about each.
The Best Items For Restraining Dogs
It is good to know that there is more than one option when it comes to keeping your dog secured and safe on car rides. Here mentioned are the things readily available in the market.
|Dog car harness||
|Dog car seat belt||
|Dog car crates||
|Dog car barriers||
Once you have found the ideal restraining item for your dog, you can enjoy short rides and long rides worry-free. However there is a lot a dog owner can do to give their dogs a happy and healthy car ride every time.
Tips for Travelling with our Dog on the Road
Whether a five-minute car trip or a day-long car trip, here are some tips that can make your ride much more canine-friendly.
- Choose a good dog car restraint item that keeps your dog comfortable and safe.
- Bring your dog comfort items, like their favorite toys, a blanket, portable bed, etc.
- Water and food should be available for your dog on long trips.
- Take precautions that your dogs do not put their head outside the windows.
- Give your dog small treats throughout a long journey.
- Let them eat outside the car or when the car is stopped, to avoid motion sickness.
- Make regular stops, so the dog can move, eat, do nature’s calls, and so on.
- Keep a dog first aid kit (e.g. bandaids, tweezers, rounded scissors, clean rolls).
- Consider the temperature. E.g. turn on the air-con if it is too hot.
- Drive smoothly and gently, so your dog is never startled.
Take care of your dog on car rides, and both you and your dog will enjoy a happier and hassle-free trip each time.
Dogs are not just “man’s best friend” but are also an extension of the family. Whether your beloved creature travels often or once in a blue moon, make sure to keep him or her secured on every trip.
Learn the dog restraint laws of your state and other states you may be visiting, and you and your dog can enjoy hassle-free road transportations.
Secure and safe restraintment methods of dogs when driving increases safety for you, your dog, other passengers in the vehicle, and the overall road population.
Pets That Travel – Dogs in Cars
Orvis – Does your state require dogs be harnessed in the car?
Paw Safe – Dog Seat Belt Law
The Spruce Pets – Best Way to Restrain a Dog in Your Car for Safety
Go Compare – Can I travel with a pet in the car?