When operating a motor vehicle in New York State, there are several laws we must abide by, including wearing a seat belt, but is it ok to drive with your pet on your lap? The answer may surprise you.

Most states, including New York, have distracted driving laws. Probably the most popular is the ban on cell phones. It's against the law to talk to them, use the email or texting features, taking photos, or playing games, everything you use a smartphone for, except talking hands-free, is prohibited. If you're found breaking this law, you'll be fined with points added to your license.

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Other examples of distracted driving include eating, shaving, reading books, or putting on makeup while behind the wheel. While they have all been found to be just as dangerous as texting and driving, there are no laws against those actions while driving. The same goes for driving with a pet on your lap; it is not against the law in New York State.

New York State’s animal cruelty laws are very vague regarding driving with a pet on your lap. Section 353 of Agriculture and Markets Laws addresses misdemeanor cruelty to animals more than placing an animal in harm’s way. Instead, cruelty is more commonly defined in terms of overdriving, torturing or neglecting animals.

While distracted driving laws in New York do not prohibit holding your dog or cat on your lap while you drive doesn't mean it's safe for you or them. Odds are if you're in an accident with your pet on your lap, it will be injured.

There's really no denying that pets are a distraction. AAA conducted a survey that found more than half of drivers pet their animals while driving, and 17 percent will put their pet in their lap.


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