Debate over whether or not dogs should be buckled up while going for a car ride is heating up in the state of New Jersey.
According to the New York Daily News, a newly proposed bill might charge a pet parent with animal cruelty if their dog isn’t harnessed inside the car. Opponents to this bill have drafted one of their own claiming that politicians don’t have the right to rule over something that’s “common sense.”
Currently, New Jersey law prohibits the inhumane transport of animals, but the definition of “inhumane” is a gray area among politicians.
Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer (D) is sponsoring Bill No. 3221, which defines failure to use a pet harness in a car as animal cruelty. If passed, pet parents who violate the ruling could face a $20 ticket and a civil penalty of up to $1,000.
“This bill would benefit the pets because unfortunately not everyone has common sense,” Spencer told the Daily News. “Your dog should not be in the back of a pickup truck or hanging out of a front window, especially if the dog weighs less than 20 pounds.”
Unrestrained dogs can be thrown from the front seat during sudden stops. This can break a dog’s legs or pose other bodily harm. “I’m not saying that not restraining your pet is cruel,” Spencer said. “Placing your pet in harm’s way unnecessarily is cruel.”
Drivers being distracted by dogs is a nationwide problem that’s receiving attention due to the proposed legislation in New Jersey. According to the AAA, unbuckled pets cause about 30,000 car accidents each year.
Assemblyman Jay Webber (R) disagrees with Spencer and is sponsoring counter-bill 3182, which states that failure to restrain an animal does not constitute animal cruelty.
“It would prevent citizens from being fined or imprisoned for not putting a belt on their pets in their vehicles,” Tom Weisert, Webber’s chief of staff, told the Daily News.
Weisert thinks Spencer’s bill goes too far. “We should be able to reduce distracted driving and prevent animal cruelty without going to the point of forcing people to restrain their animals. It would be better to reasonably enforce existing laws rather than attempting to legislate common sense.”
Spencer argues against her opponent’s common sense reasoning. “We all thought that it was common sense that you shouldn’t text while driving, until someone died. If there is a problem, we should try to prevent it before there is more loss of life down the road.”
Each bill seeks to clarify a hitherto disputed law, but there’s still a possibility that neither bill will pass. The legislators will advocate the bills they support, but the speaker of the assembly will need to post the bill for a vote. The amount of time it will take is also up for debate.
“It could be as short as three months or as long as a year,” Spencer said. “I hope to get things moving.”
Regardless of which bill may or may not pass, it’s always best to buckle up your pooch or make sure they wear a harness while you drive.