Bad New Idea From Florida: Ban Dogs From Sticking Their Heads Out of Car Windows
It’s ruff going for the state’s canines.
Not content to merely regulate human fun, a Florida lawmaker has introduced a bill that would make it illegal for drivers to let their dogs stick their heads out of car windows.
Senate Bill 932, introduced last week by state Sen. Lauren Book (D–Plantation), tackles a wide range of animal welfare issues. It would ban the declawing of cats, prohibit the sale of rabbits in stores in March and April, create a registry of animal abusers, and limit cosmetic testing on animals, among many other policies.
The legislation centers on what Book believes would improve the quality of life for Florida's animals, but one section of the bill would single out a favorite activity of the state's canine population. Dogs would be banned from sticking their heads "or any other body part" outside a vehicle's window while on a public roadway. Drivers would also be banned from holding dogs on their laps while driving. In order for a dog to be legally transported in a car, it would have to be kept in a crate, "restrained safely with a harness or pet seat belt," or controlled by a person other than the driver.
The car window ban is extremely broad. It applies regardless of the speed at which a car is moving, and it doesn't discriminate between driving on a country backroad versus a multilane highway. Violating the dog-related provisions would nonetheless amount to a "noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a moving violation."
Letting your dog stick his head out of a car window isn't entirely risk-free (though the same could be said of going on walks or visiting dog parks). American Humane, an animal welfare organization, warns that "wind can seriously irritate mucous membranes and blow pieces of grit or other debris" into animals' eyes. Christian Broadhurst, a Florida veterinarian interviewed by News4JAX, told the station that "if your head can fit out, it's not impossible for dogs to fit the rest of their bodies out."
As with many issues that politicians try to solve through legislation, the free market and individual responsibility offer far better approaches. Concerned owners can buy "doggie goggles" that protect canine eyes from flying dust and debris. Dog seat belts of all shapes and sizes can restrain pets, preventing an escape attempt or a dangerous jump through an open car window.
But these items should be optional, not mandatory, given that it is more important to protect drivers from police interactions than it is to protect dogs from dust.