According to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, New Jersey drivers who fail to buckle up their cat or dog could face criminal charges as well as fines totaling up to $1,000.
State officials are working in tandem with the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in order to enforce laws that require drivers to “properly restrain their pets.”
One of the laws at issue forbids dogs from hanging out windows and from riding in the bed of a pickup truck.
Drivers who fail to follow this law can face fines ranging from $250 to $1,000 for each offense.
Most importantly, they can be charged with disorderly conduct under New Jersey’s animal cruelty statutes.
A spokesperson for the NJ Motor Vehicle Commission explained the rationale behind the penalties, “You should not be driving down the road under any circumstances with a dog driving the car … We don’t want dogs driving with the steering wheel and we don’t want cats who sit on the dashboard.”
Another spokesperson mentioned that driving with a distracted animal in the car could be dangerous not only for the family pet, but also for other drivers on the road.
The spokesperson cited a 2010 survey from AAA indicating that 31% of drivers said they were distracted by their dog while driving.
“I hate to sound like we’re picking on dogs, but that’s normally the animal we’re talking about,” she said, noting that the law requires all animals to be buckled up.
The enforcement of the law seems to be targeting animals who sit on a driver’s lap or those that hang out of a car window.
Many New Jersey drivers are calling this ridiculous and overreaching.
However, the Motor Vehicle Commission begs to differ. “At any moment that dog could see something interesting and decide to jump out of the car,” the spokesperson said.
Putting aside the merit of the law, many NJ drivers believe that charging a person with disorderly conduct for allowing their dog to hang out of a car window is far too extreme and unfair.
Only time will tell if the enforcement of the law will be applied in such a harsh manner or if fines will simply be administered.
Remember, if you or a loved one was arrested for disorderly conduct in NJ contact an experienced NJ criminal defense attorney today.