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On the Road: It’s legal in California, but here’s why driving with Fluffy or Fido on your lap isn’t smart

By in Press Enterprise on November 19, 2017

By Amy Bentley

Q: Michael W. from Beaumont asked for an explanation about the laws concerning pets in a moving vehicle.

He said he’s noticed more motorists taking their pets along with them when they drive and allowing pets to sit on the driver’s lap.

“It seems highly dangerous letting your unpredictable pet roam around in a moving vehicle,” he wrote. “I’ve even had dogs bark at me through an open window, causing a dangerous distraction.”

A: With millions of pet owners in California, this is a great topic for discussion. In California, it’s perfectly legal to drive with your pet on your lap or unrestrained in your car, as there is nothing in the California Vehicle Code that forbids it.

However, driving with a pet on your lap or loose in the car can be dangerous and the California Highway Patrol strongly advises against both. Pets can be unpredictable and spooked easily in a moving car. Accidents have been reported that were caused by a dog or cat loose in the car that got tangled in the driver’s feet or the animal distracted the driver. A pet on the driver’s lap also can be injured or killed by the airbag deploying in an accident, Riverside CHP Officer Dan Olives said.

While you can’t get a ticket for driving with a pet on your lap, “You could get a citation for unsafe speed if your pet is causing a distraction so great that you’re not able to focus on the road,” Olivas said.

In the case of a pet is transported in the open bed of pickup truck, California requires all animals to be restrained or contained, unless the space is enclosed. This does not mean simply leashing your dog down because the dog could fall out, be thrown out, or jump out and get dragged by the leash […]    

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