Does Your State Require Dogs Be Harnessed in the Car?

Dogs and Distracted Driving

Does your state require dogs be harnessed in the car?

Dogs and Distracted Driving.

What type of dog restraint law does your state enforce?

Click Law Types Below


This state has a law enacted which prohibits driving with an unrestrained dog in your vehicle.


This state does not have any law enacted which prohibits driving with an unrestrained dog in your vehicle.


There is some language in this state’s laws which indicates you should not drive with an unrestrained dog in your car, but it is not specific enough to determine if you can be penalized.


As of April 2017 a law prohibiting driving with an unrestrained dog in the vehicle had been proposed but defeated. No new law had been introduced. This is currently a “no law” state but is labeled to indicate legislation had been considered.


As of April 2017, there was a law currently proposed in this state to prohibit driving with an unrestrained dog in the vehicle. This is currently a “no law” state but is labeled to indicate legislation is being considered.

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Does Your State Require Dogs Be Harnessed in the Car?

We bring our dogs everywhere. If we’re hiking, they’re trekking with us. We’ve figured out all of the dog-friendly stores and cafés in town. And, we wouldn’t consider a road trip without our trusty canine co-pilot. Nose prints on the windows are a sure sign of an excellent journey—or are they? Distractions behind the wheel contribute to thousands of accidents per year. In addition to texting, adjusting radio dials, and eating, a loose dog in a vehicle can be a dangerous distraction. Additionally, an unsecured dog can become a projectile in the event of an accident or sudden stop, which can cause serious injury—or death—to the dog and passengers in the car. Preventing your canine companion from distracting you while on the road—and keeping them safe for the drive—can be as simple as using a seat belt harness or securing your dog in a crate while in a vehicle. While using a pet harness in the car is recommended by pet safety advocates and veterinarians, is a dog seat belt required in your state by law?

Throughout recent years, several states have considered legislation to make dog seat belts mandatory. New Jersey made headlines in 2012 when a proposed law called for seat belts for dogs—a move that elicited strongly worded responses from those critical of the requirement. Other states have likewise proposed dog seat belt laws, Maine, New York, and Rhode Island among them. These dog safety belt requirements have been met with varying degrees of success—usually in the form of restricting dogs to the back seat of the car but not actually mandating a restraint system.

As of August 2018, only a handful of states had specific laws requiring a dog to wear a car harness or be otherwise restricted in a moving vehicle. Many states have passed laws banning dogs from the front seat, truck bed, or from hanging their head out the window. Some states, including Arizona, Hawaii, and Connecticut may charge drivers under distracted driving laws if they drive with a dog in their lap. Similarly, drivers in Los Angeles may be ticketed for driving at an unsafe speed if they’re caught with a dog in their lap—the LAPD states that no speed is safe with a pet in your lap.

While several states ban the cruel or inhumane transportation of animals, what constitutes cruelty isn’t always clear. The language surrounding dogs in truck beds is easier to understand in some cases—states including Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Minnesota have laws in place to ensure dogs in open truck beds are properly contained in a sturdy crate or cross-tethered.

The issue of properly restraining dogs in a vehicle is mentioned in the UK’s Highway Code. Rule 57 declares “When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.”

Is your dog required by law to wear a seat belt harness for car travel? Lawmakers across the country stand on either side of the argument. Driving with unrestrained animals in the car could fall under state animal cruelty laws in some locations, and others may consider loose animals a distracted driving violation. Regardless of the law, the safest way for your dog to travel is secured with a dog seat belt harness or in a crate. And, if you get pulled over for swerving, speeding, or other faults caused by the distraction of a dog, you can still be ticketed for dangerous driving. Explore this interactive map of dog seat belt laws by state as of 2018 to see where dogs need to wear a seat belt harness.

67 thoughts on “Does Your State Require Dogs Be Harnessed in the Car?”

  1. Sad to say. I see Dogs riding unharnessed everyday in the back of a pickup truck. In my life I have rescued four dogs that fell out of the trucks while the driver drove on. We need a law to stop this.

    1. I totally agree people want dogs to be treated like humans they should also suffer consequences like jail time in dog dies in a car accident and was not buckle harnessed. These people I see all the time with dogs hanging out windows etc and they claim to love their dog but puts them in harm’s way. The police need to start enforcing the law.

      1. this is crazy talk come on people. dogs dont die because of riding in the back of a truck they dont die because they are riding in the front seat. something happend the drivers a idiot and not paying attention harness a dog in the car will solve nothing a crash can still kill them a harness dog in the bed of a truck even worst. if your dog is dumb enough to jump out of the truck while moving then you should have been smart enough to already know your dog might jump out so shame on you for putting him back there in the first place. this is crazy talk going to far. put your dog in the vehicle where ever you want (not in the trunk) and go to the beach or where ever.

        1. So you’re driving down the road and someone t bones you,you become an idiot, or someone rear ends you you then also becomes an idiot? Just because you have an accident doesn’t mean it’s your fault. But the not being restrained is hurt none the less.

        2. I personally saw a dog in the bed of a pick up truck fall out when the driver cut a hard left. Person behind the dog was unable to avoid it. Dead. Your argument is invalid.

        3. I just witnessed an idiot carrying his dog teetering on boxes in the bed of his pickup. Also, this Thanksgiving I was discussing the dog seat belt issue with friends. One of them had a disabling for her, for her dog it was worse because the dog slammed into her windshield. So much for the Red-Neck theory.

        4. Wrong on both counts, Mike. During an accident, animals that are unrestrained inside a vehicle literally become projectiles and can injure or kill people in the car as well as themselves. If they get out of a vehicle after an accident, they can be injured/killed on the road or lost. Dogs that are not secured in a truck bed can jump or fall out when the vehicle is moving. I saw a dog thrown from the back of a pickup when the driver swerved. I didn’t hit the dog, but I stopped to see if I could do something for it. Unfortunately, the dog was dead.

        5. Mike, too much common sense! Please limit your sharing to dribble, so all the idiots out there can understand! Thanks!! lmbo

        6. To each his on, you stay out of my business and I’ll stay out of yours.

          Love dogs, had several over the years, they always rode in the back of my pickup.

        7. Seatbelts accomplish more than what is obvious.
          The Driver’s belt keeps them behind the wheel where they must remain to regain control of the vehicle.
          Seat belts for the passengers (and dogs) keep them
          1) inside the vehicle and
          2) from getting thrown between the driver and the steering wheel.
          …one other thing. the “baby on board” signs must be removed if there is no child in the car because 1st responders will search for that child, wasting time, instead of rendering aid to someone who is actually in need and present.

        8. I work for our local Fire Departments and I will tell you that I have seen multiple canine deaths that could have been prevented by the use of a harness and belt. A side impact, rear or head on crash can turn unrestrained passengers into missiles. We have seen many a victim thrown 50 or more feet from their vehicle, and a good number didn’t live to talk about it. As far as truck beds are concerned, it’s not a good idea at all. If the truck rolls, the dog is almost sure to be injured or killed. A good number of rollovers are not the fault of the driver, rather another driver in a second vehicle. The real question should be,why not restrain?

        9. Amen Mike, I agree people are idiots , if I had to harness my dog he would hate me ! He loves riding in the back of the truck . People are just always telling other people what to do ! And on that note here’s what I say to them: “please do not procreate it’s not safe you could wreck into me and kill my dog that’s riding in the back of my truck “!

      2. I agree not only for the animal but for the people following behind who may lose a loved one due to an accident created by a dog falling from vehicle.

      3. Many people are against the setbelt law for people, wearing a setbelt in wrecks has also cost people their lives. The insurance companies are the ones whe created and pushed that law thru, and if u get sited not wearing it drives up your rates so they make more money.

    2. I agree. I’m watching Dr. Jeff Rocky Mountain pet vet show and one of the animals that was brought in by the owners is a dog who was in the back of the truck and jumped out and severely broke its leg. This is completely irresponsible on the owner and I hope Dr. Jeff contacted the authorities or at least gave them a good talking to about the merits of making sure their pet safe in a moving vehicle.

      1. If you care for your dog, have a custom restraint halter made that connects to your seat belt system…..otherwise you are an animal abuser and should be fined and jailed if your animal suffers an injury. tgood

      2. When I worked in Forensics, we saw passengers thrown out of cars just from blown out tires. Additionally, I can’t say how many times someone pulled out in front of me without looking and I had to hit the brakes. So to say that a driver can be 100% in charge of predicting and handling road conditions unbuckled, is sadly naive. If you love your pets, your children, yourself, wear a seatbelt.
        It’s the only chance of beating the odds of an adverse event due to unexpected circumstances.

    3. Worse than that, though, are the animals who manage to jump overboard while still restrained.
      After having seen/treated an animal who has been drug down the road while it’s owner is trying to stop the truck, you may reconsider. Farm dogs riding in trucks are often safer if they are unrestrained.

    1. Hi AD,
      We had an outdated source. Thank you for your correction! We welcome any info/leads for changing laws or corrections. Please let us know if you see anything else fishy.

    2. I don’t want anyone calling me stupid. (I read a few comments.) I’m serious about my question. I have a Chrysler Town and Country van. It has 3 rows with seats. The back and middle row are put down so my dog can fit in the van. He has PLENTY of room. My question is, how do I restrain a St. Bernard? No negativity please. That’s not going to help me or my dog. Thank you.

  2. Hi, your interactive map seems to be broken.
    I hope you can fix it, it was a great resource I was hoping to link to in an article I’m writing about dog auto safety.

    1. Hi Ian,
      Sorry, the blog moved to a new subdomain and the map broke in the process. Should be all set now. Thanks for thinking of sharing the map with others. We hope you can still find a place for it in a future article. Safe travels.

  3. Is the map current?? I live in the state of Washington are the laws for or against your dog being restricted in your car??

    1. Hi Ronnie,
      The Washington law we found here suggests that transporting your dog in an unsafe manner is illegal. However, they do not state that the dog must be restrained in a specific way, which is why we labeled the law “ambiguous”. With that said, it’s safest to restrain your dog using a crate or harness at all times while in a vehicle.

      “Any person who wilfully transports or confines or causes to be transported or confined any domestic animal or animals in a manner, posture or confinement that will jeopardize the safety of the animal or the public shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. And whenever any such person shall be taken into custody or be subject to arrest pursuant to a valid warrant therefor by any officer or authorized person, such officer or person may take charge of the animal or animals; and any necessary expense thereof shall be a lien thereon to be paid before the animal or animals may be recovered; and if the expense is not paid, it may be recovered from the owner of the animal or the person guilty.”

  4. Your interpretation of the NJ law is incorrect. If you read through the statutes that you linked to you will find no mention of crates or restraining devices. The law only covers transport in a “cruel or inhumane manner” and to date there is no interpretation by a judge, attorney, or police officer that includes improper restraint. The intent as has been stated publicly is to reduce animals in truck beds, on drivers’ laps, or with their heads fully out the window.

  5. I think dogs should wear seat belt required or not my dogs are like family want them to ride safely to as we wear seat belts also it very quick and simple to do and some are not expensive I’m real lol

  6. I think it should be illegal for pets to move freely while driving. It’s a distraction, and also dangerous for everyone as well as the pet. Pets should have the same laws as a child would, in a moving vehicle. Honestly, I get mad when I see someone driving and a dog in their lap it hanging out the window.

  7. Well it will be a problem if a dog would try to jump, just like what happened to my maxi he tried to jump but luckily I got the handle of collar nearby in my hand, and I think it was kind of my fault haven’t trained him yet cause I’m still a newbie haha, and he really loves to explore and I think an accessory might be a great help you know to prevent the unfortunate events.

  8. Jay,
    If you have let your dog ride in the back of your pickup truck, consider yourself and the dog lucky! All it takes is for someone else to speed thru a red light and T-bone you. It will not go well for the dog!

  9. We restrain our children because we love them, we don’t want them to get hurt or killed, and it’s the law. We restrain our dogs and other pets because we love them and don’t want them to get hurt or killed, and it SHOULD be the law. It’s just that simple…

  10. Millions of kids everyday ride in school buses without any restraint, yet here we are trying to focus on dog retraints?

    Somewhere, we have lost our priorities.

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