Reader Question: Dog restraints?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply! 

Siri asks: What do you think about laws requiring dogs to be transported in portable kennels or otherwise restrained while riding in cars?

My reply: I think they are another example of one-size-fits-all authoritarian busybodyism!

In the first place, it’s your car – and your animal. A matter of property rights. Your electing to let your pooch ride up front – or wherever – causes no harm, as such, to anyone else. Some of those anyone elses might not like it, but that doesn’t give them the right to forcibly intervene and compel you to transport your pup in a cage (ruining the experience of just going for a drive for you both).

I hear the usual warble already . . . but something might happen! The dog might see a cat and suddenly jump in your lap and cause you to lose control!

Yes, certainly.

But only hypothetically.

Rights are a function of actuality. Meaning, simply, that rights aren’t negated by “mights.” 

One could just as easily argue that anyone “might” have a seizure while driving; whether it is more or less likely to actually happen than a dog bounding into your lap while driving is pure speculation and in both cases an irrelevance until something actually does happen that causes harm to another party.

At that point, one becomes responsible for whatever the consequences are. Not for consequences that never were – but which “might” have occurred.

This is a hard thing for most people to swallow because they imagine it means a run-amok society. But in the first place, it’s a an exaggerated fear because most people aren’t murderous or reckless by nature – even in the absence of laws – and in the second, the certain knowledge of being held responsible for harms actually caused (which isn’t the case today) would serve as a very powerful deterrent to those who are.

People who are reckless and criminal will be reckless and criminal regardless of “the law.” It is hardly necessary to state this; it’s self-evident. On the other hand, laws that punish people for hypothetical harms not actually caused punish everyone without cause – and that imposes a general harm as well as immoral one, since it is morally wrong to punish people who’ve not harmed anyone.

No matter how much you don’t like what they’re doing or worry that what they’re doing “might” result in harm.

So, I consider this a matter of personal choice. No one else knows better than you whether your dog can be trusted to sit beside you on the passenger seat without interfering with your driving. I would never presume to second guess your decision – because I don’t know your dog  and because it’s none of my business… unless you lose control of your vehicle because of your dog and hit my vehicle!

But if that never happens, it’s none of my business – or anyone else’s. Much less the government’s!

Got a question about cars, Libertarian politics – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. Any law requiring dog restraint is ridiculous, but IMO it is verging on recklesss to have an unrestrained dog in the front seat. It’s no danger to your driving ability, but you are morally responsible for any harm you cause your dog when you panic stop to avoid an elk and pup pup hits the dashboard HARD and even if not physically hurt is so scared by this random act of violence that he empties his bowels in the crack between seat and center console and develops a car/driving phobia manifested as car sickness. Speaking from experience.

    On long drives (1+ gas tank) I now always make sure pup pup is either wearing a body harness tethering his CG to the lap belt, or is in the back seat with no way to fly into windshield/dashboard. I couldn’t take the guilt if he got hurt because I was too lazy to secure him while I was saved by a seat belt.

    PS securing heavy items on long road trips is easily overlooked but very dangerous. Big full ice chests must be tied down and lid secured. Ski boots. Tool box. That stuff can easily be deadly in a multi roll over. Roll overs are extraordinarily violent.

    • Hi Bg,

      I hear what you’re saying… but then, I never restrain myself, either! That is, “buckle up” for saaaaaaaaaaaaafety. I have an instinctive loathing for seatbelts – and a much greater loathing for laws requiring me to wear one. And so I don’t – without any harm coming to me (or anyone else) over the course of decades of accident-free driving.

      I never restrained my dog when he came with me, either.

      I understand risk. But I consider the risk minimal – and choose my actions accordingly.

      Of course, everyone’s threshold for risk is different – and everyone else should act according to their own best judgment!

  2. If you look at the damage done to the ever growing segment of the population from mandatory government restraint systems (sensory deprivation child seats)…

    Can you imagine pets behavior after experiencing the same treatment?

    Officer safety when pulled over with a pet? When the AGW visits your home?