Q: Is it illegal to drive with small dogs on your lap or other animals loose in your car? – Many readers
A: Last week’s column on the illegality of eating while driving within the city limits of Tacoma had people talking about various forms of distracted or dangerous driving they’ve seen on Pierce County’s highways and byways.
Dutiful readers of the Traffic Q&A reported seeing, among other things:
▪ Women putting on makeup while doing 65 mph on Interstate 5.
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▪ Dudes eating oatmeal or soup while driving with their knees.
▪ Drivers reading newspapers while crawling through congestion.
All are motoring sins that drive people crazy.
But the topic that came up repeatedly was dogs in cars, specifically, on drivers’ laps.
It appears to be a pet peeve for many.
A University Place resident who wished to remain nameless because she has friends with small dogs called Traffic Q&A headquarters to talk about it.
“I know I have seen many people with two dogs at a time on their lap,” she said. “It can be a real problem.”
Seems like it could be dangerous to have Fido bouncing around inside the Camry, but is it illegal?
Turns out, not in Washington.
“The short answer is: No, there is no law that prohibits a pet to be free inside your vehicle while driving,” Washington State Patrol trooper Todd Bartolac told us.
Tacoma police spokeswoman Loretta Cool concurred, with a caveat.
“If the pet causes bad driving, that could be a citation,” she said. “If the dog is sitting in a lap not causing poor driving, there is no violation.”
Still, Cool said, it’s not necessarily a good idea to be driving around with your dog unrestrained in your car.
“The thing to be mindful of is it is not safe for the dog,” she said. “If you had to slam on the brakes, puppy is now a living projectile. They do make harness seat belts for dogs.”
“Loose pets inside of vehicles can become a deadly distraction,” the association states on its website. “Without proper restraint, a simple joyride with your four-legged friend could result in harsh consequences for everyone.”
Now, transporting animals on the outside of your vehicle is another matter when it comes to legality.
Here’s RCW 46.61.660:
“It shall be unlawful for any person to transport any living animal on the running board, fenders, hood or other outside part of any vehicle unless suitable harness, cage or enclosure be provided and so attached as to protect such animal from falling or being thrown therefrom.”
To review, animals riding inside the car do not have to be restrained. Animals riding outside do.