What Massachusetts Drivers Need To Know About Traveling With Pets
Jumping in the car with your four-legged friend and hitting the road for adventure sounds like the recipe for serious summer fun. But it could also be the perfect way to get yourself pulled over.
Turns out traveling with your pet isn't as simple as getting in the car to go. There are lots of ways your furry friends could get you in trouble with the law.
We've all seen the classic highway image of a dog sticking its head out the car window and lolling its tongue in the breeze. Plenty of times you've driven by someone with their cat propped in their lap.
But are these things actually legal in Massachusetts?
Most of what you've seen other drivers do with their pets in the car is not legal at all.
Do Animals Need To Be Restrained While In a Car?
While they do make doggie seat belts (some makes and models can be sold with them already in the vehicle), legally pet owners do not have to use them.
No person shall transport an animal in the back of a motor vehicle in a space intended for a load on the vehicle on a public way (unless) the animal is otherwise protected in a manner which will prevent the animal from being thrown or from falling or jumping from the vehicle.
The law says nothing about restraining a pet within the vehicle.
So dogs in the beds of trucks are completely illegal and come with a $50 fine. Dogs in the backseat of cars are completely legal and thus come with no fine.
Can An Animal Legally Ride on Your Lap in the Car in Massachusetts?
The simple answer here is no.
While there is no specific law that prevents pets from riding on the laps of their owners, there is a very specific law about impeded operation.
Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90 Section 13 starts right out by saying:
No person, when operating a motor vehicle, shall permit to be on or in the vehicle or on or about his person anything which may interfere with or impede the proper operation of the vehicle or any equipment by which the vehicle is operated or controlled.
Your pet on your lap 100% becomes something that may "impede the proper operation" of your vehicle and could be cause to get you pulled over with a $35 fine.
The MSPCA also points out how dangerous this spot in the car is for your pet, noting that if the driver were to stop short for some reason, the animal could go through the windshield.
Not something any pet owner would want for sure,
Can A Dog Legally Stick Its Head Out The Window Of a Moving Vehicle in Massachusetts?
While it may be adorable to see a puppy lolling its tongue out the window of a car, it is not exactly legal either.
Once again there are no specific laws to prevent it, but allowing your dog to hang dangerously out of a moving vehicle could be considered an act of animal cruelty and not only get you pulled over, but potentially have you lose you your pet.
While most officers won't pull someone over for letting their dog stick his nose out the window for a whiff of fresh air, younger pets could take hanging out the window too far. Pet owners should be aware of their animals in the car and ensure any eager young pups don't bound out open windows or hang so far out the side that they could be bumped out unexpectedly.
In general, these travel tips for taking dogs in the car are all about common sense. Keeping your pet safe while driving, no matter how long the road trip, should be the goal whenever you head out for adventure.