published Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

Tennessee State senators bark at bill banning dogs on motorists' laps

Poll
Should motorists be allowed to drive with dogs in their laps?
  • Yes. 23%
  • No. 77%

587 total votes.

NASHVILLE — Legislation making it a crime for motorists to drive with a dog in their lap in Tennessee was brought to heel, at least temporarily, in the Senate Finance Committee

The bill, which sponsor Rep. Jim Cobb, R-Spring City, passed Monday night in the House on a 58-30 vote, drew growls from senators on Tuesday.

Sen. Douglas Henry, D-Nashville, joked that dog-related bills can arouse strong "passions" and "often come back to bite you."

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman, in the Senate, makes it a Class C misdemeanor carrying a $50 fine and up to 30 days in jail for anyone caught driving with an animal in his or her lap or "between the driver and driver's door."

"That's a pretty good misdemeanor," Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, told Yager, who initially had difficulty finding anyone to move and second his bill. "I don't know how anybody's going to take care of the dog if they're in jail."

Yager, who noted that he introduced the bill at Cobb's request, said he received a letter from a woman who complained that she had nearly had accidents on two occasions with motorists with dogs sitting in their laps, making it difficult to control their vehicle.

Yager noted that the bill is supported by the American Automobile Association.

Kyle said he thinks the state's reckless driving statute would apply in such cases.

Sensing his dog/driver bill was in trouble, Yager moved to "roll over" the bill for two weeks, delaying action on it.

Citing safety concerns, Cobb passed a similar bill last year only to see it die in the Senate.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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