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article imageNew Jersey Democrat's bill proposes pets to buckle up in vehicle

By Andrew Moran     Oct 1, 2012 in Politics
Newark - A New Jersey legislator is proposing a new law that would require pet owners to secure their dogs and cats with a harness in their vehicle. If passed, non-compliant owners would be slapped with a minimum $25 ticket.
Is the state of New Jersey going to the dogs? No, the latest news coming out of The Garden State isn’t about unemployment, economic or fiscal news, but rather legislation regarding pets and seatbelts.
According to AAA, 20 percent of survey respondents confessed to allowing their dog to sit on their lap while driving. Close to one-third admitted to being distracted by their dog while driving. Action is now being taken.
Newark Democratic Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer, a pet owner herself, proposed a bill in July that would force pet owners to safely place their dogs and/or cats in a harness if they’re not traveling in a vehicle inside of a crate. New Jersey would be the first state in the country to impose such a law.
Spencer’s pet seatbelt idea came after a school group suggested the law and when she visited her veterinarian’s office and saw a dog that broke its legs in a car accident. Spencer argues it would save drivers’ lives.
“We didn’t think that texting was so big of an issue until people started dying,” said Spencer in an interview with Bloomberg News.
Col. Frank Rizzo, superintendent of the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NJSPCA), is in support of the initiative and actually encouraged more people to restrain their pet prior to Spencer’s proposal.
“You wouldn't put your child in the car unrestrained, so you shouldn't put your pet in the car unrestrained, either,” said Rizzo in an interview with USA Today at the time. “What people come to realize only too late is that animals act like flying missiles in an impact and can not only hurt themselves but hurt their human family members, too.”
Morris Plains Republican Assemblyman Jay Webber labelled the proposed law as “busybody of government.” He added that there are more pressing issues facing the state “by a mile.”
If the legislation is passed, owners who violate the law would receive a $25 ticket that has the possibility to spiral into an animal cruelty charge that could lead to a $1,000 fine. But New Jersey most likely won’t have the law take into effect.
Governor Chris Christie said state legislators are “wasting their time” and that he would not sign such a bill into law. He told a local radio station during his monthly visit that the proposed law is “the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.”
A large percentage of voters may differ with the governor, though. A new Fairleigh Dickinson University poll found that 45 percent of registered voters support the law, while 40 percent oppose it.
“The people who are going to be most impacted by this bill – people who actually own dogs – don’t like it. If nothing else, buying a restraint is going to cost them money,” said Dan Cassino, a political professor at Fairleigh Dickinson, in a press release. “However, if politicians are just looking at the overall numbers, the dog owners are outnumbered pretty badly.”
The telephone poll was conducted with 901 registered voters between Sept. 6 and Sept. 12. It contains a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points.
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