When loading up the family for a car ride, we do not think twice about securing our children in the proper restraints in the car. Most late model vehicles will beep like crazy until you fasten your seatbelt when you are the driver and front passenger in a vehicle.
Laws ensure everyone is properly secured. Everyone that is, except our pets.
Why is it that we secure ourselves and our children, yet we have no problem trying to operate a motor vehicle with three poodles on our lap or a Lab running around loose in the back of a pickup truck?
While we still have a long way to go, animal protection and lawmakers nationwide are starting to convey an important message: restrain your pet on the road — not only for the animal’s protection, but also for the driver’s safety and the safety of other motorists.
To date, only a few states have passed legislation requiring animal restraints in moving vehicles, and in some of those states laws apply only to animals riding in the exterior of the vehicle, such as the bed of a pickup.
In New Orleans, the LASPCA revised its ordinances to include laws regarding the transport of animals in vehicles.
The revised ordinance stipulates: It shall be unlawful to transport any animal on a public road in any open-bed vehicle unless the animal is safely and humanely restrained (at a minimum by a harness with double tethering for dogs) so that the animal is unable to jump or fall out of the vehicle.
If transporting an animal in a kennel or cage in an open bed vehicle, the kennel or cage must be double-tethered to prevent the kennel from moving.
However, the problem is not only with the exterior of the vehicle. In a 2010 survey by AAA, 20 percent of participants admitted to letting their dog sit on their lap while driving. Thirty-one percent said they were distracted by their dog while driving. These distractions can cause accidents.
Numerous types of restraints are available, such as dog harnesses, which go around the body of the dog and clip into the regular seat belt buckle. Dog safety carseats and travel crates are other choices.
Earlier this year, a bill was introduced by Rep. Thomas P. Willmott, R-Kenner, to “prohibit the transportation of dogs in pickup truck beds and utility trailers on certain roadways unless safely crated.”
The bill passed the House but did not pass the Senate. It could be reintroduced next year. Even if you are not an animal lover, this is an important issue for the safety of the general public on the roadway.
If the pickup in front of you stops short and the unrestrained animal flies out and into your windshield, this could be a devastating situation, not only for the animal, but also for you and your passengers.
We love our pets, as they are a part of our families. It is our job to protect them, and this includes when they are riding in the car.
The laws may not yet be where they need to be with regards to restraining animals in vehicles, but where the laws fall short, common sense should kick in so that the obvious right decisions can be made for our pets on the road.
Traci D. Howerton is social media editor of Animal Rescue New Orleans, a 501c3 nonprofit. ARNO operates a volunteer-based, no-kill shelter in the Elmwood Industrial section of Jefferson Parish and depends on people who have followed them since Katrina. Contact ARNO at firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.animalrescueneworleans.org, or (504) 571-1900.