DRIVERS could soon be penalised for not having their pets restrained in their car.
That will be case if Ireland follows California's lead and makes it illegal to have a pet on your lap while driving. Motorists in the US state are hit with a $35 (€25) fine if they are caught with an unrestrained pet and now a pilot scheme has been launched in Mayo aimed at getting motorists to belt up their animals.
Mayo County Council road safety officer Noel Gibbons said loose animals in a car posed a real threat to safety.
"Any passenger can be a distraction and we need people to belt up the whole family, including pets," Mr Gibbons said. "An unrestrained dog or cat in the car during travel can be a hazardous distraction to a driver.
"Even if your pet is well behaved, you still have to consider your pet's safety should another driver cause you to slam on your brakes or get into a collision," he added.
And the danger does not sit solely with the driver, as emergency services often encounter angry animals at the scenes of car accidents, which can delay medical attention for injured parties.
"Maybe the dog escapes through a broken window and dashes into traffic, causing more collisions and very often getting killed," said Mayo paramedic Damien Feeney.
"Or maybe the dog gets protective of its human and won't permit the emergency workers into the vehicle to assist."
Now, road safety organisations have teamed up with Petworld to offer safety restraints at reduced prices in their stores for the coming week as part of a pilot scheme aimed at getting motorists to belt up their animals.