Driving with a dog on the lap

A pooch rides on the lap of her owner as they travel through an Orland Park strip mall. (1999 Tribune photo by Ed Wagner / May 10, 2012)

SPRINGFIELD—The Illinois Senate barked down a bill that would have banned Fido and other pets from being in the lap of a driver while on the road, but the vote came only after Democrats managed to nip at Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for once driving with the family dog on the roof of a car.

Sen. Martin Sandoval, D-Chicago, argued the proposal was a “common-sense approach” to cut down on distracted driving and to protect pets too.

He said the bill was suggested by a woman whose husband was driving with a dog on his lap and they were both injured in an accident.

Sandoval, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said he is an “animal lover” but  that “Fido or Kitty Cat” should not be in a driver’s lap when riding in a car. 

Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, said constituents would question why the Senate is dealing with the issue while Springfield faces numersou financial crises and “Rome is burning.”

But Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, immediately rose in response to the Republicans, questioning whether the bill was prompted by a 1983 family trip in which Romney placed his dog Seamus in a crate “strapped” to the car’s roof.

“Where should we put the dog?” Jacobs asked.

The bill failed 21-27, with two lawmakers voting “present.”

rlong@tribune.com