Howls of protest call driving-with-pets bill to heel

Posted February 17

A bill filed Wednesday would make drivers holding a live animals on their laps subject to a $100 fine.

— Rep. Garland Pierce, D-Scotland, has decided he was barking up the wrong tree.

His effort to make driving with a pet in your lap a $100 infraction unleashed howls of protests from a number of quarters, Pierce said. So, instead of pushing that bill, he will ask lawmakers to consider ordering a comprehensive study of distracted driving that would recommend changes to state law.

"We've got other important issues to deal with, so I didn't want to get bogged down in that dogfight," Pierce said Friday.

While there are examples of similar laws in others states – and examples of accidents that have been caused by pets riding in the driver's seat – Pierce said he is unsure if his bill could clear committee, much less pass a floor vote.

This is not Pierce's first time dealing with a distracted driving issue. He was a dogged proponent of a measure restricting texting while driving, a bill that also encountered stiff initial resistance.

"Sometimes, these type of bills create a little bit more reaction than you want," he said.

Some constituents who objected to the lap animal measure, which legislative observers dubbed the "Toonces bill" in honor of a driving cat on "Saturday Night Live", said they simply enjoy rolling with Fido in the front seat. Others raised more serious concerns, such as veterans who need service animals close at hand to calm anxiety or detect medical conditions.

"I didn't want to put my colleagues between voting for public safety and pet owners," Pierce said.

A study, he said, could give the idea a chance or turn up something more pressing.

"There might be other things that are just as deadly," he said.


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  • Kelly Birdsall Feb 18, 2017
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    "Sometimes these bills create a little more reaction than you want" so you just want people to sit by blindly & not pay attention to what their law makers are doing?? Good to know!

  • Herman Shaw Feb 17, 2017
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    They should work harder about to radios that I can hear 1/4 on a mile away instead of about pets in cars. I can hear a banging radio from a car while I am inside my house all the time.

  • Trisha Davis Feb 17, 2017
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    Why wouldn't driving with a pet on your lap while driving be an important issue? It is distracting and if you love your pet, like your kid, the pet should be restrained somehow in the back seat.

  • William Patterson Feb 17, 2017
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    good ....

  • Bubba Smith Feb 17, 2017
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    Seriously -- don't we have a lot more important thing to be working?

  • Anita Gibson Feb 17, 2017
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    How about cracking down on drunk drivers or those who are distracted by their phones. I'll bet the accidents caused by distracted driving while on the phone is far greater than those of distracted driving with a pet. Wouldn't matter either way as they tend to plea them all down to a spat on the hand.

  • Bill Gibson Feb 17, 2017
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    Finally, the difference between pets and babies! You can train one of them not to defecate in your car, and if you get in an accident at 60 mph, it doesn't matter that the one "not strapped in" gets bounced around the vehicle like a projectile.

  • Kiara Babel Feb 17, 2017
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    WOW! I can't believe that there is anybody that is so selfish and stupid that they would oppose such a law.

  • Tim Orr Feb 17, 2017
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    How about spending more money enforcing the laws we have on DRUNK DRIVING!! There are a lot more accidents caused by foolish people drinking than someone holding a dog in their lap. Do we really pay him all that money to worry about a minor issue? Time for the government to get real...

  • Norman Lewis Feb 17, 2017
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    Driving with pets actually in your lap is foolish for at least 2 reasons. #1 it is distracting to have an animal possibly getting up in your face or wagging their tail in your field of view and begging your attention while driving and #2 their poor little bodies would be supplementary airbag cushions and killed or critically wounded by an airbag deployment and collision. So if you love your pet, keep them out of your lap.