Distracted Driving Bill Focuses On Keeping Dogs Out Of The Driver’s Seat
As we hit the road more frequently with our dogs in tow, more attention is being paid to whether our pets may be an added distraction to drivers. In fact, a survey conducted by AAA and Kurgo, a leading manufacture of pet travel products, last year found that a quarter of the drivers use their arm to hold their dog in place when breaking and nearly 20 percent of drivers admit to driving with their dog in their lap.
Focus On Distracted Drivers – As laws are hitting the books focusing on talking and texting while driving, there is also a spotlight on keeping our pets safer. In fact a Senate bill was introduced in Springfield, IL aimed at keeping dogs off a driver’s lap while the motor vehicle is being operated.
“As more people take their dogs to run errands and go to dog-friendly places, it’s important to make sure the laws keep up with that trend,” says Melissa Ramirez, the Chicago woman behind the bill. “It’s not only distracting to have a dog unrestrained, your dog or someone else could be injured if your pet goes flying after an accident.”
Pets In The Car – As more dogs hit the road, national statistics show that more pets are getting involved in accidents. One AAA study found that 30,000 accidents a year involve cars carrying animals. Even minor accidents could spell danger for your pet since a 10-pound dog hits at an impact of 80 pounds.
“I had the chance to meet with Senate President John Cullerton, who was behind many of the seatbelt and safety laws passing in Illinois,” says Melissa Ramirez, the Chicago woman behind the bill. “He told me how difficult it was to pass the seatbelt laws so it’s important to do it in stages. Although not everyone follows the seatbelt laws, more people do buckle in and that prevents injuries and saves lives.”
Ramirez then met with Senator Martin A. Sandoval, the head of the Senate Transportation Committee. He worked with her to write the law and get the ball rolling on the new legislation. She will be working to build support and will also be working with the ASPCA and Humane Society of the United States to get their backing as well.
Laws Elsewhere – The only state with current legislation making it illegal for a dog to ride on a driver’s lap is Hawaii. Legislation is under consideration in Rhode Island and the city of Troy, Michigan has also made it illegal to drive with your dog in your lap.
Max’s Story – Ramirez understands the importance of not only keeping your dog out of the front seat of the car, but also restrained. She and her husband often drive around the city with their Min Pin Max. One day, their car was t-boned and her husband, who was restrained, had no injuries. Max wasn’t as lucky.
“Max was sitting on his dog bed in the front seat and was thrown to the floor on impact,” says Ramirez. “He ended up with a severe hematoma on his spine and couldn’t walk. He needed surgery and rehabilitation to the tune of $10,000 before he could move around again. The insurance would only have pitched in if he had died–to me this wasn’t an option.”
The accident inspired Ramirez, who has a background in marketing, to develop a seatbelt for smaller dogs that attaches to the harness a dog already wears and keeps them in place in the car. Since then, Ramirez has been on a mission to educate owners about traveling more safely with their dogs and how to use the Doggie Seatbelt and other products to keep your pet safe.
Ramirez is hoping to first pass the law that makes it illegal to drive with a dog in your lap. After that the focus will move to getting dogs out of the front seat and eventually for them to be restrained in a crate or seatbelt in the back seat of the car. Until then, she’ll be strapping in her dog Max and working to educate the public as to the importance of restraining your pet when driving.
Laws Regarding Dogs In A Grocery Store
Dogs are everywhere in this country’s dog-friendly culture. You see them in stadiums, big-box stores and boutiques. Some stores even keep dog treats on hand for their customers’ canine “kids.” With food safety at risk, it’s important for grocery store proprietors and owners to understand the laws that apply to them regarding dogs in stores.
No Dogs Allowed – The Food and Drug Administration’s Food Guide lays down the law: with few exceptions, live animals of any kind are not permitted on the premises of a grocery store, a restaurant or other food establishment. The prohibition applies to dogs, cats, birds and other animals. Animals are unsanitary, and the law protects the national food supply from contamination from dog drool, urine, feces and other material that dogs carry on their coats and paws and might leave behind on store shelves or counters.
Exceptions – Some dogs are allowed access to grocery stores in spite of the general rule that they are not. For example, law enforcement dogs can come inside, as long as they’re accompanying a police or security officer. Without this exception, a canine-officer team in hot pursuit of a criminal would have to stop the chase if the bad guy ran into a grocery store. A similar exception permits service animals for the disabled to be in grocery stores under certain circumstances.
Service Dogs – Laws that regulate dogs in grocery stores must not interfere with the rights of disabled people who use service dogs. The FDA requires grocery stores to allow disabled employees, customers and other business visitors to bring service dogs into their stores. The disabled person must be in control of the dog at all times, and the store can restrict the dog’s access so it is only allowed in parts of the store where its activities don’t pose a health or safety hazard.
Enforcement – Best practices for enforcing the no-dogs rule can vary depending on where your store is. You are generally within your rights to ask a dog’s owner whether the dog is a service dog and what function the dog performs, but you can’t require the owner to show you proof of his disability or the dog’s status as a service animal. State law may add another layer of regulation. In California, for example, service dogs wear special tags so merchants can easily identify them.
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