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NJ Lawmaker Introduces Bill Requiring Pets Buckle Up In Cars

Nick riding in the car (credit: Billie Rama)

Nick riding in the car (credit: Billie Rama)

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TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – The days of your dog sticking its head out the window of your car could soon come to an end in New Jersey.

Assemblywoman Grace Spencer (D-Essex) is sponsoring a bill that would require all pets to be buckled up for safety.

WCBS 880’s Levon Putney reports

The bill states that drivers must use some sort of  seat belt restraint system that “humanely restricts the movement of a domestic dog or cat and keeps the animal secured and confined to a seat in a passenger automobile or within a passenger automobile’s cargo area during motor vehicle transport.”

EXTRA: Click Here To Read The Full Bill

Spencer said she proposed the bill after a group of school kids gave her the idea for the legislation. She also said her vet told a story of a dog breaking its leg after its owner made a sudden stop.

She said an unrestrained dog in a car, especially a small one, can also be hazardous to the driver.

“Just think about that, a Bichon Frise, a Pomeranian sitting on the front seat of a car and the car having to stop all of a sudden,” she told WCBS 880. “Imagine what that does to the dog, imagine how the driver is going to respond to that dog. It poses a hazard and it’s also a safety issue for the animal.”

But not everyone seems to be on board with the bill.

A group of Republican lawmakers are sponsoring an opposing bill that says “failure to restrain a cat, dog, or other domestic companion animal while the animal is riding in a motor vehicle is not cruel or inhumane transport.”

Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris) said he introduced the bill to clarify that pet owners are not required to harness or restrain their pets.

“Often times, these harnesses and these restraints are more cruel to the animals,” Webber said.

EXTRA: Click Here To Read The Full Bill

The bill is also getting mixed reaction from New Jersey residents.

“It’s a ridiculous law,” one woman told CBS 2’s Vanessa Murdock.

“Sounds like a great way to sell car seats,” another man said.

“I’ve seen people with dogs in their arms when they’re driving and I think well if that dog acts up, that car is going to hit me…so I think it’s a good idea,” another woman said.

 

President of the New Jersey SPCA Richard Yocum agrees. He said if pets are well-behaved in the car, buckling, crating or harnessing your pet isn’t necessary.

“You can’t legislate common sense,” he said.

Yocum said the current statutes on improperly transporting an animal pertains to dogs riding in the back of pick up trucks or with their bodies half way out a window.

If Spencer’s bill is enacted, New Jersey would have the nation’s toughest seat belt law for pets. Violators could get a $20 ticket and could face an animal cruelty charge, which has a civil penalty of $250 to $1,000.

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