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What You Need to Know About Dog Car Restraints

dog car restraints

Almost 40% of households have dogs and just over 25% own cats, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. While many pet owners like bringing their pets into the car on trips, they may not know about cat or dog car restraint laws. 

Pets can become distractions in the car. Whether you’re taking them to the vet or a park, or bringing them along for a hike or road trip, using pet restraints like dog car seats or seat belts help keep them safe in the case of a car accident. Securing your pet can lower the chances they will become a distraction or accidentally disrupt your driving as well.

“Regardless of laws on restraining pets, which differ state to state, the invariable laws of physics are what is important,” said Diana Gugliotta, senior manager of Public Affairs at AAA Northeast. “If a vehicle is traveling at 60 miles per hour, so are its passengers, and any unrestrained passenger (human or animal) becomes a projectile in a crash unless restrained. A 30-pound dog traveling at 60 miles per hour requires 1,800 pounds of restraining force, making it impossible to hold onto a pet to restrain them in your arms. We need to restrain our pets for their protection as well as for the protection of other passengers.”

Pet restraint laws vary across the Northeast. If you’re driving with your pet in the car, you should know your state’s laws and the laws of other states you may cross into. Here’s what you need to know about safety restraints for dogs in cars and keeping your pet(s) safe while driving.

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In Connecticut, distracted driving laws could be applied to drivers carrying their pet on their lap. When it comes to dogs being transported in an open truck bed, they must be contained in a crate or cage. This is a measure to prevent them from falling or jumping out of the vehicle.


For pickup trucks, convertibles and other open vehicles, Maine laws require some kind of dog car restraint in order to protect canines from being thrown from or trying to escape the automobile. Additionally, pets shouldn’t be carried on the driver’s lap. Violators can be charged under distracted driving laws. 


Again, dogs being transported in the bed of a truck must be safely secured, in either a cage or crate that is properly tethered to the vehicle. There are also height requirements for the sides and tailgate of a truck – must be at least 46 inches. Fines will be $50 and up.

In Massachusetts, laws also prohibit essentially anything that could interfere with a driver’s operation of their vehicle. Though the language is a bit vague, this law can prevent a dog from riding on the driver’s lap, sitting in the front seat or being unrestrained in the car.

New Hampshire

Similar to other states, dogs traveling in truck beds must be properly secured within a crate or cage that’s correctly cross tethered to the vehicle. New Hampshire laws also require certain heights for the sides and tailgate of the vehicle.

New Jersey 

In New Jersey, carrying an animal in a cruel or inhumane manner can result in a fine. This kind of disorderly offense could cost a driver anywhere between $250 and $1,000 per offense. Using safety restraints can help protect your pet.

New York

Currently, New York does not have specific laws regarding how to properly restrain pets in the car. A bill prohibiting unrestrained animals in automobiles was proposed but has yet to pass.

Rhode Island

In Rhode Island, dogs traveling in a vehicle need to be secured in some way. This can include within a crate, restrained with a harness or dog car seat belt. Pets can also be under the physical control of a person other than the driver. Violators who don’t restrain their dogs can pay a fine up to $200 depending on the number of offenses.


Vermont‘s laws regarding pet restraints are a bit more ambiguous. According to this state’s laws, animals cannot be transported in a cruel or inhumane manner. So safely securing your pet isn’t a bad idea in Vermont.

Approved Harnesses and Carriers

Some northeastern states have laws requiring dogs be restrained or secured while riding in a vehicle, while other states’ laws are a bit more vague. If you would rather err on the side of caution and opt to use some kind of pet restraint, there are many safe options to choose from.

The Center for Pet Safety approved several safety harnesses, including the Sleepypod Clickit Sport, Sleepypod Clickit Terrain and ZuGoPet Rocketeer Pack. Sleepypod’s full line of carriers is also CPS certified. 

Kurgo products are designed for owners and dogs with an active lifestyle. They sell a variety of  car products, like the crash-tested Car Safety Dog Harness and Seatbelt Tether.

Additional Pet Needs

When it comes to other pet needs on the road, be sure you have enough food, treats and water. A reflective leash and portable water bowl are helpful to have on hand, as well as a few toys. And finally, don’t leave home without your dog’s collar and ID tag(s).

If you’re taking your pet on a longer trip, check out these tips.

Do you drive with your pets? How do you keep them safe in the car? Tell us in the comments. 


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One Thought on “What You Need to Know About Dog Car Restraints

  1. I’ve got a very excitable 10 yr. old miniature poodle who loves to ride in the car. I’ve purchased a metal crate for her size with 3 doors that I secure to the back seat using the center seat belt running through the crate wall in the back to keep her safe.

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