New Jersey is cracking down on pets in transit — and says “click it or ticket” now applies to cats and dogs, too.
The SPCA and Motor Vehicle Commision teamed up at a public education event last week in the Garden State to talk about the dangers of transporting animals without proper restraint .
New Jersey is the only state where driving with pets loose in the car is a violation of animal cruelty law. Drivers cited for failing to properly secure their petcan face a ticket of between $250 and $1,000 and as much as six months in jail.
Pets hanging out the window, riding in the back of a truck or curling up on the driver’s lap are among ticketable offenses under the law.
Animals roaming free in a car are not only a distraction to the driver, they can fly out of the vehicle in a crash or sudden stop and cause a lot of damage , Robert Sinclair Jr., spokesman for AAA New York, told the Daily News.
Lack of attention while driving is the no. 1 cause of traffic deaths in the U.S., Sinclair said, with between a quarter and a third of all crashes a result of some sort of distraction.
According to a 2010 AAA survey, 20 percent of people admitted to driving with pets loose in the car and 31 percent said doing so was a distraction.
"It certainly makes sense from a safety aspect,” Sinclair said. “It's probably one of those flaws in the law that most states haven't dealt with."
Dogs should be retrained in harnesses that click into the car’s seat belt buckle, and cats should go in a carrier that’s also buckled down, officials say.
Only a few other states are cracking down on pets in vehicles. Arizona, Connecticut and Maine can charge a driver for an unrestrained pet under distracted driving laws. Hawaii specifically prohibits driving with a pet in your lap.
SPCA spokesman Mike Stanton told the Daily News that out of roughly 5,000 animal cruelty citations a year, only 10 are for improper transit.
“We are not actively cruising the roadways of New Jersey looking to write people up,” he said. “Just be sensitive to the safety of the animal and your own safety when you have the animal in your car.”