Laws on transporting dogs in cars


Most dogs love to travel. Where their people go, they want to go. Few laws pertain to travelling with your companion animal. Laws generally regard only animals left in parked vehicles. In the U.S.A. at least one state now has laws governing how dogs travel in open beds of pickup trucks.

Despite the lack of legislation, there are many safety issues and other tips to make travelling with your dog fun for both you and your pet.

Parked Vehicles

Nearly all laws regarding dogs in vehicles pertain to leaving pets in parked cars. Parked vehicles can heat up quickly, even in relatively mild weather. With rising temperatures and improper ventilation, your dog can quickly die. Guardians can be punished for leaving pets in parked vehicles under laws specific to the situation or under laws addressing cruelty to animals.

Pickup Trucks

Letting your dog ride in the bed of a pickup truck is dangerous. The animal is at risk of being struck by a flying object, incurring an eye injury or jumping or being thrown from the moving vehicle--seriously injuring or killing the pet or causing a traffic accident. In California, dog guardians are now required to have their pets in a cage or cross-tied in the bed of trucks, unless the trucks sides are at least 117 cm (46 inches) deep.

Loading and Unloading

While there are no laws regarding loading and unloading your pet from a vehicle, it's an important time to pay attention to safety. Many animals are lost in this situation. Keep a firm grip on your pet's leash as she is getting into or out of a vehicle.

Before departing with your pet, ensure that she has current identification tags and on a collar that won't come off. On the ID tag, have a telephone number at which you are easily accessible, such as your mobile (cell) phone number.

Front Seat

There are no laws that govern where your pet sits in your car; however, for your dog's safety, your safety and the safety of other drivers, you should not allow your pet to ride in the front seat.

If you have to make a sudden stop, your dog can be thrown through the windshield. There is also the risk of your pet climbing into the driver's seat and interfering with your driving. He could also be thrown into the floor and interfere with your access to gas and brake pedals.

Airbags also pose a risk to pets. If the airbag were to deploy, it has enough force to potentially injure a dog.


Again, the law does not require that you restrain your pet in a vehicle; however, for everyone's safety, pets should not be allowed to ride unrestrained. Unrestrained pets can interfere with driving, become hazardous projectiles if there is an accident, or hit or go through the windshield.

There are several options for restraining a pet inside a car. Most pet supply stores sell harnesses that double as seat belts for dogs. A pet barrier across the back seat of your vehicle is an option. Or, you can place your dog in a crate.


Keep windows rolled up high enough that your dog can't squeeze through them. Dogs can squeeze through much smaller spaces than we usually expect, and are likely to attempt to do so--even in a moving vehicle.

Don't let your dog ride with her head hanging out the window. She is at risk from flying objects and in danger of sustaining an eye injury.


When travelling with your pet, ensure that you have packed all the items your dog may need. At the top of the list should be a bowl and water. Many dogs get thirsty on road trips. A good plan is to take along ice chips or cubes that will melt and provide water to your pet along the way. Also take first aid and clean-up supplies. If you're travelling a long distance, you should pack any medications your dog may need, a supply of his regular food and his veterinary records, including his rabies vaccination certificate.