Issue of pets in vehicles cause stir at New Jersey statehouse

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Wednesday, October 10, 2012

An effort underway at the New Jersey statehouse addresses the practice of giving free rein to pets inside cars and trucks.

A survey from AAA found that 56 percent of dog owners have driven while distracted by pets. Instead, safety groups recommend that people use restraints to prevent harm not only to pets, but their owners.

Hawaii is the only state to prohibit drivers from allowing animals, people or objects to interfere with their control of the vehicle. The Garden State would be the first state to require pets to be strapped in their seat.

Concern about the distractions caused by pets as their owners attempt to navigate city streets and highways has spurred action from New Jersey Assemblywoman Grace Spencer, D-Newark.

Spencer has offered a bill for consideration that would require pet owners to buckle up their dogs, or cats, when taking a drive. Exceptions would be made for pets secured in crates.

Owners who fail to secure their pets in some sort of harnessing system would face a $25 fine. Instances determined to be “extreme,” such as having an unrestrained pet in the bed of a pickup, could result in owners being handed a $1,000 ticket.

The bill – A3221 – is awaiting consideration in the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. However, it appears more likely to rain cats and dogs before Gov. Chris Christie would sign the bill into law.

The Republican governor referred to the bill as “the stupidest thing I ever heard in my life” during a recent call-in show on New Jersey 101.5 radio.

A separate effort from Assemblyman Jay Webber, R-Morris, supports the governor’s view on pet restraints. The bill would clarify that failure to restrain a pet would not be animal cruelty.

Webber’s bill – A3182 – is in the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New Jersey, click here.

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