Q: I see people on a daily basis driving with dogs sitting across the driver's lap and arms or hanging out the driver’s window. Sometimes the dogs are running back and forth between the driver’s window and the other windows, with all the concerns of “distracted driving,” why is this allowed?
A: In Minnesota, we do not currently have a law requiring dogs to wear seat belts or be secured in a dog carrier within the vehicle, but we do have laws about distracting driving and obstructing your view.
The most common distracted driving laws being discussed include cellular phone “hands-free” driving (Statute 169.475), and use of televisions, headphones (Statute 169.471). Other conduct that may distract an individual could fall under a variety of other traffic laws depending on the conduct.
The most common inattentive or distracted driving behavior will fall under Minnesota Statute 169.14, Speed Limits, Zones; Radar, Subdivision 1. Duty to drive with due care. Every driver is responsible for becoming and remaining aware of the actual and potential hazards then existing on the highway and must use due care in operating a vehicle.
There are several good reasons to restrain Fido while driving:
1. An unrestrained dog may obstruct your view.
2. Fido could block or move the gear shift.
3. Fido may decide he/she no longer likes the backseat and jump on your lap and become entangled into the steering wheel.
4. Fido jumps down by your feet and impedes your ability to utilize the brake pedal.
5. Fido could become a projectile in a crash, striking you or a passenger.
I place my dog Shadow in a “car kennel” when I travel so if an accident should occur the chances of his and my passenger's survival increase. If you do not wish to utilize a kennel and have access to the internet, search for “pet seat belts” and you will find numerous options for your situation.
I would also like to encourage you to discuss this matter with your veterinarian, as they may have better options or provide you with recommendations that will minimize injury to your pet in the event of a crash.
1. Minnesota Statute 169.14 Speed Limit, Zones; Radar. Located online at: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/cite/169.14
2. Minnesota Statutes: Pets in cars https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/cite/346.57
4. Minnesota State Statute 169.37, Obstructing View of Driver. Located online at https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/cite/169.37
5. Minnesota State Statute 169.13, Reckless or Careless Driving. Located online at https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/cite/169.13
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