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Laws About Dogs in Cars: Understanding the Law in California

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Driving with Your Dog: What’s the Law in California?

Ever take your dog for a car ride and wonder what’s legal when it comes to laws about dogs in cars in California? You might be surprised to learn that there is no California Vehicle Code section that prohibits your dog from riding in your lap or roaming around unrestrained inside your car as you drive.

Driving with your unrestrained dog in your lap is not illegal in California, but some states across the US have enacted laws requiring dogs to be restrained within cars.

Even though you won’t get a ticket or break any laws for driving with your dog in your lap, it is an unsafe practice. Pets can behave unpredictably and cause distractions by jumping down towards your feet, interfering with your use of the gas or brake pedal. Even taking your hands off the wheel for a few seconds to pet your dog can distract you and take your attention off of the road.

It is also dangerous for your dog, who might be injured or killed by the impact of a crash or a deploying airbag in an accident. According to a AAA/Kurgo survey, an unrestrained 10-pound dog in a crash at only 30 mph will exert around 300 pounds of pressure! Not only would that kill your poor dog, but it would also severely injure any person in its path.

Distracted Driving

While it is not illegal to drive with your dog on your lap, you can still open yourself up to legal liability for distracted driving. Let’s say you cause a car accident while your dog is in the car. If the other driver proves that you are driving distracted because of your dog and that this negligence caused the car accident, you may be on the hook to pay them for damages resulting from the accident.

To prevent this, the safest way to transport your dog is to secure it in a pet car seat, kennel, or caged section of the vehicle. This is to restrain your dog from accessing the driver’s seat or vehicle operating systems. The backseat of the car, much like with child safety rules, is considered the safest place to put your dog to avoid injuries from airbag deployment.

Dog Transportation in Pickup Trucks

Notably, California has enacted a law regulating the transportation of dogs in the open bed of a pickup truck, as opposed to inside of a vehicle.

CA Vehicle Code section 23117 states that dogs may not be transported in the open bed of a pickup truck unless the dog is cross-tethered to the vehicle, protected by a secured container or cage, or is in an enclosed space with side or tail racks at least 46 inches tall. If cross-tethering, a harness rather than a collar is recommended to prevent choking or other injuries as a result of an abrupt stop or turn.

Dog Safety in Cars

Dogs are considered man’s best friend for a reason. As members of our family, it’s our responsibility to protect them by keeping them restrained while in a moving vehicle.

Restraining your furry friend also ensures your own safety and the safety of everyone around you. Taking precautions is the best way to avoid accidents that can hurt you, your pet, and other drivers and passengers.

If you’ve been involved in a distracted driving incident involving unrestrained pets in the car, contact PARRIS today for a free case consultation.

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