Karen B. London
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Driving With a Dog on Your Lap
New law would ban this

If a new bill in Rhode Island becomes law, it will be illegal to drive with a dog on your lap. The purpose is to protect both people and dogs from being injured or killed in accidents. Distracted drivers are a danger while driving, and it’s hard to argue that a dog on your lap isn’t ever distracting.

Representative Peter Palumbo proposed this legislation last year, but it never came up for a vote. He is hopeful that this year will be different and that the bill will pass. He acknowledges that some people consider this bill frivolous, but he contends that it is an important matter of public safety, especially considering how many people drive with dogs on their laps.

The penalty for violating this new ban on driving with a dog on your lap would be a fine: $85 for a first offense, $100 for a second violation, and $125 for all subsequent ones.

The state of Hawaii does not allow drivers to have dogs on their laps. In Maine, Connecticut and Arizona, distracted-driving laws can be used against people driving with dogs in their laps. What are you thoughts on such laws?


Karen B. London, PhD, is a Bark columnist and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems in the domestic dog.

photo by Lulu Hoeller/Flickr

CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by Anonymous | January 24 2013 |

It is absolutely stupid to endanger the life of a dog by not having them properly contained in a car.

Submitted by Frances | January 25 2013 |

Dogs should be in a crate, or otherwise suitably restrained, for their own safety, the safety of humans in the car, and that of other road users. We no longer consider it acceptable to have children travel without suitable seats and seat belts - I don't consider dogs to be disposable, any more than children! The evidence from crash tests is all too overwhelming.

There is a small fortune to be made by anyone who comes up with affordable, crash tested solutions for all sizes of dogs in all sizes of car.

Submitted by Anonymous | February 16 2013 |

Distracted drivers are a danger while driving and it’s hard to argue that a dog on your lap isn’t ever distracting. driving school dudley

Submitted by Paul | August 10 2013 |

This is a pet peeve of mine. So dangerous to all involved. I have always been a bit afraid to put my name to this issue as pet owners are so in love with their pets and can be quite vocal to anyone getting in the way of their freedom.
I know of one person who complained (maybe a bit frivolously) about pet barking too much, to the city and ended up going to the hospital because the pet owner punched him.

Submitted by Bob Studer | November 11 2013 |

Some of us have the small dogs that love to have their face in the wind whiles riding in the car. I have a van with big mirrors and my dog never blocks my view. It has been riding on my lap for over 7 years and never a problem. I came from Washington state where there are no laws against have a small dog in your lap. If you folks think about it there are so many other things that are distacking than a small dog. kids screaming ,even if you have hands free phone it is still distracking. listing to the radio or just day dreaming . this is another law to take away someone's freedom. I have had pets all my life and no accidents or tickets in 33 years. the next thing they will have you not be able to drive after 65. why do people love to take away others freedoms ? Just more liberals that think they know how to run your life better than you do.

Submitted by S Lenee | March 5 2014 |

There are arrogant drunks who have been on the road for years before they kill innocent people. Your rationalizing your dangerous behavior by saying you've yet to have an accident? Some or many dog owners are a selfish breed. Only an idiot needs a law to replace common sense.

Pet owners don't think of those that they can kill by getting distracted on the road or taking their pets to public places. Those of us with Asthma who have lost the freedom to go to the grocery store or the beaches with posted sign saying NO dogs or even to shop at home improvement stores or get on an airplane. So my question to you is.....where is my freedom?

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