Florida May Ban Dogs from Sticking Heads out of Car Windows
UPDATE 2/22/23, 7:00 p.m.: In response to our request, the legislation’s sponsor, Florida State Senator Lauren Book, issued a statement accompanied by this photo of her own dogs:
“Our family has three dogs—two of which are almost 175 pounds each and love sticking their heads out the window—so I welcome and appreciate all public comment on this issue, which is only one piece of a complete proposed overhaul of the state’s animal welfare system as brought to me by veterinarians and advocates. We can easily amend this piece out of the bill while protecting the intent of the animal welfare community and vets who proposed the policy because of unintended injuries they’ve treated—and we will. In the meantime, let’s all invest in a good pair of ‘doggles’ to keep our furry friends safe.“
Lately, Florida’s been full of ideas for bannin’ stuff, and the list might soon expand from books and driving in the left lane to unrestrained dogs in cars. Florida state senator Lauren Book is sponsoring a bill, SB 932, which concerns animal welfare and covers a lot of ground. It includes language restricting animal testing for cosmetic products, prohibiting the declawing of cats, and creating a public registry of animal-abuse offenders. All of which sounds hard to argue with, no matter how many times a cat has shredded your draperies.
But there’s also a provision that will likely rankle dog owners, not to mention dogs. Specifically, the part of the bill that concerns “prohibiting a person from taking specified actions relating to the transportation of dogs on public roadways.” What, do they want to outlaw your dog sticking his head out the window? Well, yes, actually. Let’s take a look.
No Dogs on Laps, No Dogs on Motorcycles
The first part of the dog-transport section (and there are several) says that you can’t have a dog on your lap while you’re driving. That, we agree with. Mostly because the people who drive with dogs on their laps don’t really have dogs, per se—they have cats who like to go for rides. Because if a dog is on your lap while you’re driving, chances are it weighs less than 10 pounds, is wearing a designer hat, and would lose a fight to a moderately combative chipmunk. And if that’s not the kind of dog on your lap—as in, a large, slobbery, rambunctious creature that’s capable of barreling through a closed screen door—then that dog should not be between you and the controls of your motor vehicle. Fair enough.
Part B says basically the same thing, but applied to motorcycles—you can’t let your dog ride in front of you on a motorcycle, even if he wears goggles and puts his paws on the handlebars like he’s driving and everyone loves it. Dog in a backpack on a motorcycle? Evidently OK. And as for a cool dog in a motorcycle sidecar, why, we’re pretty sure that’s the Florida state flag.
Now for the third rule of dog transport: You cannot “allow a dog to extend its head or any other body part outside a motor vehicle window while the person is operating the motor vehicle on a public roadway.” Yes, it would be illegal for your dog to stick its head out the window. We asked our dogs about this, and they said that if you criminalize dogs sticking their heads out the window, then only criminal dogs will stick their heads out the window. We pointed out that the penalty would actually only be a non-criminal moving violation (our dogs clearly hadn’t read the full text of the bill).
The anti-head-out-the-window rule is almost a moot point given SB 932’s subsequent rules around dog restraints in cars. It says that dogs in motor vehicles must be either in a crate, or restrained with a harness or pet seatbelt, or physically restrained by somebody who isn’t the driver. And any dog in the bed of a pickup would have to be in a crate, period—and the crate itself secured to the truck. (Human Floridians would still be allowed to ride uncrated in the bed of a pickup.) There’s also some wording about not driving around with your dog on the roof or standing on the hood of your car, no matter how rad your dog is.
We’re guessing that there was some kind of incident that spurred these proposed rules around restraining dogs, and we contacted Senator Book’s office to ask if that’s the case. If we find out more, we’ll let you know. In the meantime, who wants to go for a ride?
Ezra Dyer is a Car and Driver senior editor and columnist. He’s now based in North Carolina but still remembers how to turn right. He owns a 2009 GEM e4 and once drove 206 mph. Those facts are mutually exclusive.