California bill would ban drivers’ ‘lap dogs,’ other animals

| 8/5/2008

With California state lawmakers returning this week from a one-month recess, a bill that could draw consideration is intended to encourage pet lovers to keep their animals off their laps while at the wheel.

Current state law prohibits people from driving with their view obstructed or if there is interference with their control of the vehicle. There is no limitation that prevents pets from roaming freely in vehicles.

A bill in the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee would change that. Sponsored by Assemblyman Bill Maze, R-Visalia, the measure would prohibit people from driving while holding a live animal in their arms or lap.

Violators would face fines between $35 and $100.

If approved in the Senate, the bill – AB2233 – would move to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk. The Assembly has already approved it.

All legislation must be approved by both chambers before the end of the regular session, which is scheduled for Aug. 31.

Supporters say that keeping pets restrained in back seats will help keep them safe. If left free to roam throughout a vehicle, pets can be become “a deadly projectile” during sudden stops or crashes.

Others say that pets can become a distraction that put drivers and their passengers at risk.

Opponents say that government shouldn’t dictate what can be on drivers’ laps.

To view other legislative activities of interest for California in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor