The warmer weather means more time to spend with your furry friend, but the Department of Motor Vehicles and New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reminds you that in addition to buckling up, your pets need to be secured when you’re behind the wheel.

The MVC is partnering with the SPCA to remind vehicle owners that the famous “click it or ticket” policy doesn’t just apply to humans, but also to any unrestrained pets. MVC Chairman Ray Martinez says that your dog or cat (or any other animal for that matter) shouldn’t be riding on the lap of the driver and they shouldn’t be left un restrained on a seat.

“What happens to a dog is the same thing that would happen to a person. If there is an accident that pet goes flying and becomes a projectile.”

He notes that while having a puppy or kitten on your lap might look cute, it actually is putting both the animal and the person at a significant risk.

“In the event the driver has to react very quickly they are going to be distracted by that pet. Also if that pet is roaming around freely in the vehicle that is a distraction for the driver but it’s also very unsafe for the pet itself.”

In New Jersey if the SPCA catches a driver improperly driving with an animal the vehicle operator could face big trouble. Fines run from 250 dollars to 1000 dollars for each offense, in addition police officers who stop drivers can also right those tickets and the driver can be charged with a Disorderly Person’s offense under the state’s Animal Cruelty Statute.

When it comes to properly securing your pooch (or kitten), Martinez says the first thing to make sure is to avoid the front seat “where they can easily be a distraction.”

“Our concern here at Motor Vehicles is the driver should be focused on driving when they’re in the vehicle. Not on keeping a dog on their lap, not on having the dog in the passenger seat.”

Ideally he says the animal will be in the back seat, and properly restrained with a commercial car restraint for pets.

“There are restraints, buckles if you will, that are sold at most pet stores and they range in price from 15 dollars up to 100 dollars I’m sure. They’re for every size of dog, and that’s for the safety of the dog. “

Martinez notes that Triple A recently conducted a Survey which asked about whether driver’s drove with their pets unsecured.

“20% of those asked admitted to letting their dog sit on their lap when they drove, and an even greater percentage admitted to being distracted was sitting up in the front seat with them.”

He reminds though the image of a dog having its head out the window, even in the backseat, could be cute, it’s incredibly dangerous for the pooch.

“If you have to do a quick stop or you’re involved in an accident that could be lethal for that dog. It might look cute, and the dog might seem to enjoy it, but it’s not good practice.”

Martinez asks anyone who sees any kind of maltreatment of pets to contact the SPCA at 1800 582 5979.

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