Traveling With Your Best Friend: Keeping Pets Safe in the Car

On the road, you’ve probably seen a dog hanging its head out the window of the car next to you, with its tongue out and its ears flapping in the breeze. Cute, right? But in some states, this scene might be against the law!

Michigan recently proposed a new bill that would prevent people from driving with their furry friends sitting on their laps. It would apply for all animals that are not medically necessary. So, a dog trained to detect seizures might be allowed, but the average pup wouldn’t cut it. The punishment for breaking this rule would be a $100 fine for the first offense, and $200 for second. Four other states — Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, and Maine — have similar laws. In Arizona, Connecticut, and Maine, driving with a pet on your lap can be considered distracted driving, just like texting.

Dogs in Cars Cause Distractions

It might seem harsh to try to separate someone from their dog. But pets can be a distraction on the road! They might see something outside and try to jump out the window, causing the driver to draw their attention away from the road. They could also move around on the driver’s lap, causing a distraction. Even when a pet is in the passenger seat or back, they can still be a distraction if they are barking, whining, or moving around.

In Florida, there are no laws pertaining to unrestrained dogs in cars. The only exception is Miami-Dade County, which has a local law that says any animal riding in the back of a pickup truck must be humanely restricted. Florida also has a law against transporting an animal in an inhumane manner, or by unnecessarily causing an animal’s death by providing it of life-sustaining water or shelter. This includes leaving an animal in a hot car, something Florida law recently addressed by making it legal to break a vehicle’s window to help a trapped dog.

Keeping Pets Safe on the Road

None of this means you have to deprive your pet the joy of going on a car ride! You can keep both yourself and your dog safe in the car by following a few simple tips:

  • Don’t let your dog hang their head out the window, as they could be hit by debris or suffer damage to their respiratory system
  • Keep your dog in the backseat
  • Restrain your dog in a harness or crate, so that they cannot move too freely around the vehicle while you’re driving
  • On longer trips, take frequent breaks, so that your dog is happy and won’t distract you

Follow these tips, and you and your best friend can have many happy, safe car rides together!


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.


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