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Florida should outlaw driving with unrestrained pets

It’s not unusual to see someone driving down a residential street, or Interstate 275 with a dog sitting happily on the driver’s lap with its head out the window.

However, this may soon become illegal in Tennessee.

A bill sponsored by Rep. Jim Cobb (R-Spring City) will, if passed, require animal owners to keep their dogs and other pets restrained while inside a moving vehicle.

Florida needs to consider taking similar measures to require pet owners to restrain their pets in either specially designed pet seatbelts or locked travel cages.

According to The Associated Press, tens of thousands of car accidents every year are believed to be caused by unrestrained pets in automobiles.

In 2009 alone, there were 448,000 automobile injuries related to distracted drivers and 5,474 deaths, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“A pet that weighs 50 pounds, in a 35 mph collision, is projected forward like a cannonball with 1,500 pounds of forces, and that can cause critical injuries to the folks in the front seat,” Katherine Miller, a director of applied science and research for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said to the AP.

She also said pets can run away after an accident, potentially causing additional accidents, injuries or deaths.

It may be more of a hassle than many would like, but pets can easily be restrained by cheap cages or even specially designed seatbelts for dogs sold at stores such as PETCO. It’s a minor sacrifice to avoid dealing with the aftermath of a violent automobile collision.

People’s love for their dogs and their desire to play and cuddle with them, even while driving a multi-ton vehicle at 80 mph, is not enough reason to threaten the safety and security of the driver, passengers, pets or other vehicle drivers.

Unrestrained pets may be a greater threat to traffic safety than cell phones or text messaging – two activities with the most opposition over safety concerns.

A cell phone can only ring and be talked and texted on. Unlike a pet, a cell phone won’t jump down to your feet and depress the brake or accelerator; it won’t vomit, defecate, bark loudly or run around a moving car.

Regardless of how cute some may think it is to have dogs and other animals running around moving cars or sitting on drivers’ laps, it’s a dangerous activity that should no longer be tolerated. Florida legislators would be wise to consider drafting similar legislation.