A state House bill would prohibit driving with unrestrained dogs in the open bed of a truck or the open cargo area of a vehicle — such as the space behind the seats in SUVs or minivans — in most situations.
House Bill 986, introduced Wednesday by Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake, would add the provision to state law that already applies to children ages 16 and younger.
Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, is a co-sponsor.
The bill was sent to the House Judiciary 2 committee. It also would have to clear House Appropriations and House Rules and Operations before going to the chamber floor for a vote.
The bill would allow dogs in truck beds or other cargo areas only if they are: under the physical control of a person other than the vehicle operator; humanely secured in a cage or other container; or humanely restrained by a harness manufactured for the purpose of restraining animals.
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It does not set forth requirements for dogs riding in passenger areas of a vehicle.
Violation of the proposed law would carry a fine of up to $25. However, the violator of the potential law "may not be assessed court costs."
The bill would provide $10,000 to the N.C. Transportation Department from the state Highway Fund "to study issues related to the safe transportation of dogs."
The bill would go into effect Dec. 1 if signed into law and would apply only to future infractions.
A blog by personal injury attorney Matthew Sharp of Reno, Nev., features a section on legal issues related to unrestrained pets in vehicles.
"A recent American Auto Association survey reveals that one in five drivers admits to driving with an unrestrained dog in the car," according to the blog.
Drivers admitted to the following distractions while driving: allowing the dog to sit in their lap; petting or playing with the dog; giving the dog snacks and treats; holding the dog in place while braking; reaching into the back seat to pet the dog; and snapping a photo of the dog.
According to the AAA survey, more than 80% of drivers admit they recognize the dangers of driving with an unrestrained pet, but only 16% use pet restraints.
“Just like small children, a dog can be killed by an inflating airbag, even if the dog is restrained," the blog says.
“Dog owners who understand the dangers to their pets and children are three times more likely to use some type of pet harness safety belt, pet travel crate or car pet barrier while driving.”
The blog said a handful of states have laws against transporting unrestrained pets in vehicles.
“Even when laws don’t state that dogs must be restrained, drivers with unrestrained pets in their laps can be charged under distracted driving laws,” according to the blog.
Martin could not be immediately reached for comment the bill he is sponsoring.