It’s that time of year when drivers cruise along highways and scenic back roads with the windows down, wind blowing through their hair, music blaring and their faithful four-legged canine riding with his/her head out of the window.
The image is almost as old as time, and this year it’s an image travelers will be seeing less and less, thanks to increased enforcement under the national Click It or Ticket program.
Under New Jersey Statute 4:22-18, unrestrained pets in vehicles is an act of animal cruelty, and drivers who don’t secure their pooch in a pet seat belt will be subject to fines, ranging from $250 to $1,000 and as much as six months in jail.
“That’s for each offense,” Col. Frank Rizzo, police superintendent for the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Animal Cruelty, said Wednesday, according to The Bergen Record. “So, if you have more than one animal loose in your car, just do the math…”
“Some people tell us they like to let their pets hang their heads out the window to take in the fresh air,” Rizzo said, “but dogs and cats become projectiles in a crash.”
On its website, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals offers tips for safe traveling with your pet, and the number one item on their list is making sure your “dog is securely fastened or confined during car trips.”
A large dog in your lap or a small one bouncing around the accelerator pedal can be distracting and dangerous—and should you have an accident, your unrestrained dog might be thrown about the cab, according to the ASPCA tips.
The ASPCA advises dogs be fastened in the back seat of the vehicle. Dogs can be injured or even killed if you have an accident and an airbag deploys, if they are riding in the front seat.
A dog seat belt is “specially designed for the bodies of dogs, so they are a bit different from belts that people use,” according to Canine Auto. It can be positioned in two different ways depending on how your dog prefers to sit.
The Click It or Ticket program is the most successful seat belt enforcement campaign ever, helping to increase the national seat belt usage rate, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.