Most dogs love going for rides in their owner's vehicle, preferably with the window open. Something about a good car ride seems to feed into their sense of adventure and love of a good hunt.

Animal experts think car rides mimic their instinctual roots of riding in a pack, which brings them comfort and even a type of euphoric high. Riding in the car allows a dog to explore new sites, sounds, and smells.

Dogs are outgoing. They like to get out and explore and see other people. Plus, with their keen sense of smell, a ride in the car with the window open is an intense sensory experience for your dog.

But, is it legal to drive your vehicle with your un-belted, harnassed, or crated dog along for the ride in New Jersey?

Is It Required That Dogs Wear Seat Belts When Riding in a Vehicle in New Jersey?

In New Jersey, pets in moving vehicles must be secured in a carrier or wear a seat belt. Failure to comply can result in a fine of $250 to $1000, according to a law that went into effect in 2012, when New Jersey became the only state where driving with pets loose in the car is a violation of animal cruelty law.

I'll admit to bringing along un-belted dogs with me over the years and my dogs have always loved sticking their heads out the window, but that might not be the safest thing. Dogs are safest in the rear of the car in either a harness or crate.

What Exactly Does New Jersey Law Say About Unsecured Dogs Riding in Cars?

According to NJ trial attorneys, Lombado Law Group, the law reads...


"4:22-17. Cruelty; disorderly persons offense; certain acts, crimes; degrees.

[a person who is guilty of cruelty]… Shall be guilty of a disorderly persons offense, and notwithstanding the provisions of N.J.S.2C:43-3 to the contrary, for every such offense shall be fined not less than $250 nor more than $1,000, or be imprisoned for a term of not more than six months, or both, in the discretion of the court. A violator of this subsection shall also be subject to the provisions of subsection c. and, if appropriate, subsection d. of this section.

b.    A person who shall purposely, knowingly, or recklessly:

…Shall be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree.

If the animal or creature is cruelly killed or dies as a result of a violation of this subsection, or the person has a prior conviction for a violation of this subsection, the person shall be guilty of a crime of the third degree.

The answer to the question, are dogs really required to wear seat belts in cars in New Jersey is...YES.

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