Find Out If Your State Requires Dog Seat Belts: Dog Seat Belt Law

Dog Seat Belts

More than 80% of dog owners drive their dogs without restraints in their cars, according to industry research. Driving loose dogs may soon be illegal in your state, as many states have passed legislation.

Many responsible parents will not drive if their child is strapped in a seat belt or car seat. Wouldn’t it make sense to treat children who get angry the same way? Unsurprisingly, 83% of respondents believe that walking an unrestrained dog is dangerous. But only 16% of dog owners use some type of dog seat belt when out with their dog!

Research shows that driving with an unrestrained dog is a serious road safety hazard. As more states pass laws, driving with loose dogs may soon be illegal where you live. Many people are unaware of the danger. A 60-pound (27 kg) loose dog can become a 2,700-pound (1,225 kg) weapon in a car crash at 35 mph (56 km/h). This is a mortal danger for the people in the car and our friends.

However, driving with an unrestrained dog is the norm. But it is more dangerous than you might think. The question is; Is it illegal in your state, and what can you do to protect your dog and family?

Is driving without a dog seat belt dangerous?

A loose dog flying through the windshield or hitting someone in the front seat in a collision is only part of the problem. Even if it is clear that it is a big risk. A recent Volvo study found that unsafe driving behavior doubled among drivers with unrestrained dogs compared to those with dog leashes or Seat belts hold their dogs.

Owners drive their dogs around in the car while sometimes the dog is on their lap or hanging out of the car window. This type of behavior has dire consequences, as in the case of the 8-month-old Bullmastiff puppy, Mastis.

In 2015, Mastis jumped into the front seat, causing the driver to lose control of the car in Santa Ana, California. The car overturned and burst into flames. Fortunately, the owner and the puppy survived.

Also, although dogs like to stick their heads in the window, they have a high risk of injury by doing so. Flying objects such as rocks that can break the windshield can hit your dog in the face.

Another potential disaster is a dog jumping out of a moving vehicle or out of an open door when it is not safe to do so. A protected dog can be held until the owner decides it is safe to leave.

In a car accident, a dog can save a life. A dog with injuries and protection can prevent emergency services from reaching its owner. For example, in Brazil, a dog jumped into a magnet and tried to prevent its injured owner from getting to an ambulance.

Equally annoying is where the dog runs from the shelter and can get lost. Volvo research also shows that drivers with unrestrained dogs are distracted for more than 10% of their total driving time.

Out of a total of 30 hours, owners who have dogs out and about take their eyes off the road for an average of 3.39 hours. Meanwhile, dog owners were distracted for only 1.39 hours, less than half the time.

As in the case of young Mastis the Bullmastiff, the distraction caused by the dog on the road can have dire consequences. A famous example happened in 1999 when a driver hit writer Stephen King who said his dog was distracted and ran off the road. King was killed and seriously injured.

Another study conducted in 2015 looked at the risk in older drivers. It showed that pet owners over the age of 70 who regularly drive with their pets have a higher rate of car accidents.

Figure 1: Motor vehicle accidents in urban dogs: a study of 600 cases

Even without a collision, riding your dog in a car is stressful for both the dog and the driver. Volvo found that both dogs and handlers had lower heart rates when the dog was properly restrained.

Are dog seat belts required by law in your state?

In response to the growing awareness of the dangers of distracted driving, states are slowly legislating on the issue. Also, the number of heated debates on the subject is increasing.

It’s likely that over time, other states will start jumping on the couch bandwagon as people follow the idea of ​​pissing off their friends. What is currently allowed varies by state, and our article on dog-friendly states is a good place to learn more about certain areas.

It is important to know the dog seat belt laws in your country. But it’s also a good idea to check every state you travel to to make sure you’re following all the rules properly.

In general, most states do not have specific laws regarding dog seat belts. However, most have some sort of policy for keeping dogs in or out of cars.

Let’s go through the current laws in each state.

State Laws on dog seat belts
AlabamaWhile there are no specific laws regarding seat belts, animal cruelty laws may be applied. A traffic warden or police officer that feels the dog is transported in a way that endangers its life can take action.
AlaskaNo laws regarding restraints, but there may be individual city laws prohibiting dogs from being loose on the back of a pick-up truck.
There has been a heated debate in the in-state legislature about driving with pets in Arizona. Currently, they have laws prohibiting leaving an animal unattended in a vehicle. Although there is no specific law yet to keep dogs restrained, the state may use distracted driving laws to charge people with a pet on their lap.
CaliforniaThere is no specific law regarding dogs tethered inside a vehicle, but dogs on the back of a truck must be cross-tethered or in a crate. People driving with dogs on laps can be subject to fines.
ColoradoNo specific laws, although anti-distracted driving campaigns are raising awareness on the issue.
ConnecticutWhile there are no specific laws on doggy seat belts or restraints inside care, dogs on laps or unsecured dogs on the back of a truck can incur hefty fines.
D.C.D.C. currently has no laws regarding restrained dogs in cars.
DelawareNo current laws
FloridaNo current laws
GeorgiaNo current laws
HawaiiIt is illegal to drive with your pet in your lap or in the driver’s immediate vicinity.
IdahoNo current laws
IllinoisNo current laws
IndianaNo current laws
IowaNo current law regarding unrestrained dogs. However, Iowa code 321.363 prohibits driving with an obstructed view, which may extend to a dog sitting on the driver’s lap.
KansasNo current laws
KentuckyNo current laws
LouisianaNo current laws
MaineMaine state law requires that dogs wear seat belts or are kept in an enclosed section of the vehicle. Drivers with dogs on their laps can be charged with distracted driving.
MarylandMaryland law does not specify laws on dogs and pets in the vehicle. However, the 2013 Maryland Transportation Code 21 1104 does not allow a person driving on a highway any object, obstruction, or material which may impede driving. This may include dogs on the lap.
MassachusettsMassachusetts has no laws specifying seat belts inside the car. However, dogs on the back of trucks need to be adequately tethered or confined to crates. The sides and tailgate also need to reach a specific height.
Also, there are strict rules regarding anything in the car that may impede or obstruct the driver while operating the vehicle, including loose dogs.
Finally, the police may fine owners if they feel the dog is being transported cruelly or inhumanely.
MichiganHouse Bill 5277 proposes a fine for any driver operating a vehicle with a dog on the lap. If the bill passes, drivers may be subject to a $100 penalty on the first violation and $200 for subsequent offenses. The bill has not yet been approved as law.
MississippiThere are no specific laws about securing a dog inside the car with a seat belt. But, the Mississippi Dog and Cat Pet Protection Law of 2011, M.S. Code Section 97 41 16, can charge owners with misdemeanors if they are deemed to be traveling with their pet in a cruel manner. This can extend to a lack of proper safety precautions.
MissouriNo current laws
MontanaNo current laws
NevadaNevada has no current laws. However, statute NRS 574.190 prohibits inhumane and cruel methods of transporting pets.
New HampshireWhile New Hampshire has no laws regarding seat belts, it does ban unsecured dogs on the back of a truck. The sides of the truck and the tailgate also need to be of adequate height.
Dogs need to be crated or cross tethered.
New JerseyIn New Jersey, driving with unrestrained pets is an animal cruelty violation. Drivers who violate the laws can be subject to fines ranging from $250 to $1000 and may even face jail time.
New MexicoNo current laws
New YorkNo current laws
North CarolinaA law was proposed in 2017 to ban dogs riding on driver’s laps. It is unclear whether this law was passed.
North DakotaNo current laws
OhioOhio has no laws on restraining dogs in vehicles. Still, it does have laws banning traveling with dogs in an inhumane manner.
OklahomaLike Ohio, Oklahoma views traveling with dogs in a cruel and inhumane manner as grounds for a misdemeanor.
OregonNo current laws regarding restraint inside the car, but dogs on the back of trucks need to be safely secured.
PennsylvaniaNo current laws
Rhode IslandRhode Island has strict laws regarding dogs in vehicles. They must be safely contained in a crate or secured with an appropriate seat belt or harness. Somebody other than the driver may also hold the dog. Offenses may be fined up to $ 200.
South CarolinaA constraint is not explicitly required, but tickets can be given for negligence if a dog is deemed to be making driving unsafe, such as by sitting on the driver’s lap.
South DakotaNo current laws
TennesseeDogs do not need seat belts by law, but they are prohibited from being transported cruelly.
TexasLike Tennessee, dogs do not need to be constrained inside the vehicle, but there are laws against inhumane confinement.
VermontLaws stipulate that dogs may not be transported in an inhumane way.
VirginiaVirginia law does not specifically require a seat belt. However, regulations require that drivers take adequate care of their dogs while driving. A law passed in 2017 concerns explicitly distracted driving and listed unrestrained pets as possible distractions. The DMV recommends that dogs be restrained in moving vehicles.
WashingtonLike Virginia, the law in Washington is vague about seat belts. Nevertheless, a distracted driving law passed in 2017 emphasizes loose dogs on the driver’s lap as a possible distraction. Further to this, there are also laws about the safe and humane way to transport animals.
West VirginiaNo current laws
WisconsinNo laws concerning retraining in cars. However, some laws prohibit cruel transport practices.
WyomingNo current laws

International laws on dog seat belts

Let’s also take a look at some of the international dog car seat insurance laws if you’re taking your best friend abroad.

United Kingdom

Driving in the UK with a leashed pet? Think again. Under traffic laws, drivers with pets who are not restrained can face significant fines.

Animals should be restrained in a seat belt, carrier or carrier to prevent distraction while driving and ensure animal welfare. UK car insurance companies are also warning that accidents caused by uncontrolled pets may not be covered.


Australia is another country that has used dogs to drive cars extensively.

Motorists in this country face huge fines and fines on their licenses if they are caught driving with a dog on their lap or between them and the toes of a motorcycle.

A leash or crate is used to hold the dog when it runs on the mat, and it will be taken to the appropriate area of ​​the car.

Cars, bikes or motorcycles cannot drive dogs outside while the vehicle is moving.

Not only can drivers be fined for distracted driving, but they can also face jail time. Fines are heavier if an uncontrolled animal is injured in a road accident.

What is the safest way to keep a dog safe while driving?

There are many ways to keep a dog safe in the car so that it does not distract or annoy the driver. We cover each of them in detail in our full article on dog seat belts.

The most commonly used methods are:

  • Pet carrier or crate
  • Mesh shield between the front and rear seats
  • A dog seat belt.

Shields and carriers are a great way to keep your dog safe while driving.

Both meshes and crates are problematic. They don’t prevent dogs from being thrown violently into the back seat, and the best mesh can actually collapse in a collision.

Owners are also encouraged to do their own research on seat belts and accessories. Seat hair that is too long or without adjustment can not absorb the shock of a sudden stop and, at best, can lead to a serious injury for the puppy.

A seat belt attached to the collar can cause serious injury to the dog’s cervical vertebra and trachea if it comes off suddenly. Normal walking gear can also bend and cause damage. The more its surface is covered, the more complex it is distributed.

There should be no chance of it falling on the dog’s neck or rolling into the chest in the event of an accident. Finally, the barrier will be short enough to limit the distance the dog will be thrown.

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