NJ Voters Actually Support Bill Requiring Dogs to Wear Seat Belts (Sigh)
A bill proposed in the New Jersey State Legislature that would require animals to wear seat belts in the car has the support of the majority of voters, according to a recent poll conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind.
According to the poll, conducted earlier this month, 45 percent of voters actually support the idea of making dogs and cats wear seat belts, while only 40 percent oppose the bill.
The bill was introduced by Assemblywoman Grace Spencer in July. The proposed law would give law enforcement the authority to issue a $20 ticket to anyone caught driving around with his or her dog unharnessed. Additionally, the offender could be hit with animal-cruelty charges.
As we mentioned in prior posts, there is some logic behind forcing animals to wear seat belts (none of which was used by Spencer in explaining her bill).
Spencer's reason for forcing drivers to buckle up their pets stems from a class she visited at a Newark Charter School, where a veterinarian told her about a dog whose leg was broken after its owner made a sudden stop, according to the Newark Star-Ledger.
One dog's broken leg is hardly a reason for a taxpayer funded argument over seat belts for pets -- which Spencer's bill already has become (Republicans oppose the bill and have proposed their own bill to counter it).
However, dogs can act as a "backseat bullet" if not buckled up during a car wreck.
See an example of a "backseat bullet" -- which was part of a British PSA campaign -- below:
The problem, however, is that anything -- a bag of groceries, a heavy purse, for example -- can be a "backseat bullet," so until Spencer wants to start buckling up inanimate objects, a seat belt law for dogs will do nothing to solve what could be perceived as an actual problem.
Again, though, Spencer's reason for the law is one dog who broke his leg, not the possibility of people getting crushed to death by a canine projectile. And even the ASPCA doesn't recognize animals not being buckled up as a serious problem worthy of legislation.
From the Star-Ledger:
But Tim Martin, a spokesman for the New Jersey SPCA, called the remark an "unscripted moment" and said the group, which is allowed to enforce animal protection laws, does not target drivers who leave their pets unbuckled. "The point we were trying to make is having Spot on your lap while you're driving is dangerous to both you and the animal," he said.
Martin said over the last six years his group investigated 21 cases of animals allegedly being transported in an unsafe way, about a quarter of which resulted in fines. But he noted these were for extreme cases, such as a dog riding on a motorcycle's gas tank. He wouldn't comment on Spencer's bill but said the group does not view unbelted dogs and cats as animal cruelty.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.