NJ drivers may need to install seat belts for pets

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doggy seatbelt

"No fair! I can't get my head out the window!" Image: pdxjeff/Flickr/CC BY-SA

Some New Jersey lawmakers want to mandate seat belts for pets that travel by motor vehicle. That has the state split, nearly down the middle.

Law mandates seat belts for pets

Rather than letting it roam freely in the cabin, Mitt Romney once famously strapped his dog to the roof of his car while on a family vacation. It seems he may have been ahead of the curve on that one. A law proposed by N.J. Assemblywoman Grace Spencer in July would mandate that all pets be inside a restrained crate, or secured by some type of seal belt, while in a moving vehicle.

The law would impose a fine of $20 on violators, and open them to possible charges of animal cruelty. Supporters of the law say it will reduce distracted driving, as well as ensuring the safety of pets.

Ray Martinez of the N.J. Department of Motor Vehicle told New Jersey 101.5 FM radio listeners:

“If that pet is roaming freely in the vehicle, that is a distraction for the driver, but it’s also very unsafe for the pet itself.”

The proposal immediately triggered a counter-proposal from a rival lawmaker, saying that drivers transporting unrestrained pets should not be subject to animal cruelty charges.

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A house divided

Dan Cassino, a professor of political science at Farleigh Dickinson University, said:

“These proposals have received both attention and ridicule. But it seems like New Jersey voters are taking this seriously.”

The opinion of New Jersey voters are split nearly equally over the matter. Those in favor are taking a slight edge at 45 percent to 40 percent, according to a voter survey conducted by Farleigh Dickinson University.

As might be expected, most of those who support the law are Democrats. Fifty-one percent of supporters were Democrats, as compared to the 36 percent of Republicans. The remaining supporters, presumably, did not identify with either of the two major parties.

Cassino called it a “clear instance in which Democrats support government intervention in what had been a private sphere, and Republicans oppose it.”

Less predictably, more dog owners opposed the legislation than did not. Firty-eight percent of supporters do not own a dog, while only 38 percent do.

Cassino said:

“The people who are going to be most impacted by this bill — people who actually own dogs — don’t like it. If nothing else, buying a restraint is going to cost them money.”

What do you think?

Often, when states pass new laws, they become templates for moves in other states. How would you feel if you were forced to install a doggy seat belts in your car in Brooklyn, or wherever you may live?


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