Better buckle up your pets in New Jersey

Jodi Ziskin's picture

If your summer family travel plans include driving through the state of New Jersey, be sure to have your pets buckled up.

Earlier this month, the Garden State announced that police and animal control officers are authorized to cite drivers with unrestrained animals in the car (including the back of a pickup truck). Violators can be fined $250 to $1,000 per offense.

From what I understand this isn't a new law - driving with pets loose in the car is a violation of the state's animal cruelty law.

According to, Raymond P. Martinez, Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) Chairman and Chief Administrator, and Col. Frank Rizzo, Superintendent of the NJ Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NJSPCA) delivered the "Buckle Up Your Pet" safety message prior to the official start of summer because more people take to the roads with their pets in the warmer weather months.

It can be very dangerous for a pet to be unrestrained in a car. Not only can a dog or cat easily be ejected during an accident, they can suffer a host of injuries just from a driver stopping short or taking a turn too quickly. A pet wandering around a car can also be dangerous for the driver. Imagine trying to press on the brake only to find your cat snuggled under it.

While New Jersey is the only state that views unrestrained pets as a violation of the animal cruelty law, several other states are cracking down, as well.

Arizona, Connecticut, and Maine residents can be penalized under distracted-driving laws if they are driving with a pet in their lap. In Hawaii drivers are not allowed to drive with pets in their laps; Rhode Island and Oregon are considering doing the same.

To restrain cats, simply keep them in their carrier. Secure the carrier by strapping it in with the seatbelt. This is great for small dogs, too.

For dogs of all sizes, there are many harnesses on the market that safely secure to seatbelts or restrict movement.  One of the best I have seen is the VestHarness by RC Pet Products ( It is a car restraint, non-choking harness and chest protector all rolled into one. features a large selection of special seatbelts, travel seats and other products specifically designed to keep cats and dogs safe.

Regardless of where your road trip takes you, it is always important to take proper precautions to keep your pet safe and secure while traveling.



Jodi Ziskin, our Traveling with Pets Editor, is a Holistic Wellness Consultant for Animal Companions, specializing in nutrition and proactive health. She is a Certified Pet Nutrition Consultant who also holds a Master of Science degree in Holistic Nutrition. Through her company Holistic Jodi, LLC, Jodi makes house calls throughout South Florida, helping cats, dogs, birds and rabbits be as healthy and happy as possible.

She and her husband Zach live in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with their two cats, Obi and Emma.

Please feel free to contact Jodi at holisticjodi[at] or visit