Ask a Trooper: Pets as passengers

Troy Christianson
Redwood Falls Gazette

I know that there was recently a law passed restricting cell phone use while driving and it was about time. I commute approximately 100 miles per day and have been noticing the number of drivers with a dog on their lap is getting out of control.

I have recently been in three close calls with drivers that have dogs on their laps and I think it’s time for a law restricting this. I followed a woman the other day that had a dog popping its head out the sun roof, driver and passenger windows while she was struggling to hold on to the leash. She crossed both the center and fog line multiple times in the four miles I was behind her.

There is no specific law stating where a pet is allowed to ride in a vehicle.

As for a dog on a lap, or head hanging out an open window, there would be no violation of law and no citation issued for just that in itself. As you mentioned, if it “interferes with their driving”, a citation could be issued.

Driving smart and focusing 100 percent of your attention on the road can help avoid tragedy for everyone sharing the road.

Distracted driving-related crashes claim an average of 41 lives and 200 life-changing injuries each year, causing a lifetime of grief and pain for the families who are left behind and an untold story of what could have been.

In my opinion, distracted driving applies to unsecured pets.

Having a pet sit on a driver’s lap or loose in a vehicle could result in distraction, as well as visual obstruction. That pet could also become a projectile in a crash. I have seen unsecured pets thrown into vehicle occupants during a crash causing unnecessary injuries to people and pets.

For instance, if you are involved in a crash with a pet in your lap and the airbags deploy, it could result in the pet being thrown into you, causing serious injury or death to you and your pet.

For your pet’s safety and the safety of all passengers in the vehicle, take the extra time and effort to properly secure your pets so you can drive smart by always paying attention behind the wheel.

You can avoid a ticket – and a crash – if you simply buckle up, drive at safe speeds, pay attention and always drive sober. Help us drive Minnesota toward zero deaths.

If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota send them to Sgt. Troy Christianson, Minnesota State Patrol, 2900 48th Street NW, Rochester, MN, 55901-5848, or reach him at,