Transporting Your Dog under Californian Law
(A guest post by Sally Keys). For many pet owners, ensuring their dog obtains all the exercise he needs involves driving him along to picnics, days out on the beach, or social gatherings. However, allowing dogs to travel ‘loose’ in the car puts their lives at risk, as well as ours, and we need to take special precautions to ensure that our negligence does not result in damage or loss of life. These are just a few pertinent regulations with respect to driving with a dog in your vehicle in California:
Dogs in Cars
A law vetoed by then-Governor Schwarzenegger in 2008 sought to make it illegal to drive with a dog on one’s lap. However, although the law did not go through, the LAPD has announced that it intends on ticketing people with dogs on their laps for ‘driving at an unsafe speed’, since there is no safe speed at which to drive with a pet on one’s lap.
To be on the safe side and to ensure your dog does not cause any accidents because of your negligence, it is best to travel with your dog secured to the car via a dog seat harness or dog travel bag with its own harness.
Although keeping your dog in a large transport carrier will stop him from flying to the windshield in the case of impact, it won’t necessarily prevent him from being injured. If you are travelling at a high velocity, the impact of your dog against his transport carrier can be significant, so a dedicated seat harness/dog seatbelt is the way to go.
Preparing for Travel
Pet owners often complain that their dog is not a happy camper in a crate or bag. To reduce anxiety and prepare for travel, owners should ensure that the dog releases pent-up energy at home through games such as tag, hide and seek, and treat-seeking. Dogs should exercise and stretch their limbs and get their hearts racing for the hour leading up to travel time, so they see see their bag or crate as an opportunity to sleep and recover after so much activity.
Dogs, Trucks and Other Loading Vehicles
Article 23117 (a) of the California Motor Vehicle Code 23117 states that drivers cannot transport animals in the back of a vehicle in a space intended for any load on the vehicle on a highway, unless the space is enclosed/has side and tail racks to a height of at least 46 inches from the floor.
Alternatively, the driver should prevent the animal from being flung out or escaping – i.e. the pet should either be cross-tethered to the vehicle or kept in a secured container or cage, in such a way that it cannot fall, jump, or be thrown off the vehicle. There are exceptions to the rule (e.g. dogs used for ranching or farming), but in general, the aim is to keep pets (and other vehicles and persons) safe when they are travelling in an open space (such as the back of a pickup truck).
Never Leave Your Dog in the Car Alone
Dogs should not be left alone in the car, especially under inclement conditions. The recently passed law known as the ‘Right to Rescue’ act allows good Samaritans to smash windows and break into a vehicle to save an animal from a hot vehicle, under certain conditions, including having checked to see the car cannot be opened, observing the animal is suffering harm or is in imminent danger, etc.
Under California Penal Code Section 597.7, meanwhile, when conditions are too hot or too cold, or if there is inadequate sustenance or ventilation, it is illegal to leave a pet unattended in a motor vehicle.
When transporting your dog, it is important to be one step ahead of the law. Always think of your own and others’ safety, as well as that of your dog. Even if you are driving in a state that does not require your dog to wear a dog seat harness, injury or death could result from failing to use one. Remember that your dog should be seen as another companion – one that is not left alone in the car, exposed to inclement conditions, or given the possibility of falling or jumping off a vehicle. Your dog is a loyal friend who loves you unconditionally, so be sure to respond with the loyalty he deserves when you are on the road.