HARTFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Connecticut lawmakers are considering whether to make it illegal for pets to ride in a vehicle while sitting on the driver’s lap.

Under a bill before the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee, people found driving with a pet on their lap would be charged with distracted driving.

Gordon Gibson, legislative liaison for the agricultural organization Connecticut State Grange, said pets could cause a driver to lose control of a vehicle and crash. He said animals should be kept away from drivers.

Gibson called on lawmakers to go even further and require all animals in moving vehicles be restrained in a suitable safety harness, similar to a seat belt. Protecting domestic animals from harm is a principal of the grange.

Rep. Tony Guerrera, the committee’s chairman, called it “scary” that such a law is needed.

State Sen. Paul Doyle said having a pet on your lap could be just as distracting as using your cellphone or fiddling with something on the dash.

“If you have one of those pet dogs on your lap and who knows what happens, it certainly can be a distraction,” Doyle told WCBS 880’s Fran Schneidau. “You are attached and if there is a whimper, you lean over to try to help just like you would a baby, and then who knows what could happen.”

State Rep. Fred Camillo of Greenwich, who helped draft the original distracted driving law, agrees pets on a driver’s lap can prompt the person at the wheel to take their eyes off the road, Schneidau reported.

In downtown Greenwich, a dog named Goose seemed comfortable in the passenger seat of his owner’s car, but sometimes he likes to get behind the wheel, CBS2’s Lou Young reported.

“He’s a cuddler; He likes to sit with me,” said Allison Mango. “(Even in your lap?) Yup. (Even while you’re driving?) Yup.”

The bill has the support of safe driving activists and the Connecticut Humane Society, but some pet owners in Greenwich felt a little conflicted.

“It’s kind of bittersweet. (Why?) Because you want to hold your dog. You want to love your dog,” said Chantal Curtis.

But groomers at the Snip Doggy Dog salon in Old Greenwich know that what we want isn’t always what is good for us or our pets.

“The worst thing is, if you have a dog on your lap and you need to make a quick jerk reaction, there’s a dog in the way,” said salon manager Anastasia Freccia.

“It should be illegal. I mean, I have two toy poodles so I wouldn’t want to get into an accident and my poodles die because I have them on my lap,” said Keith Densmore, of Norwalk.

Not everyone is certain a law is the answer, though. State Rep. Fred Camillo, of Greenwich, said he wants to see some hard accident data before he cracks down on this particular form of distracted driving.

New Jersey and Hawaii have similar laws that ban people from driving with dogs on their lap.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


Leave a Reply