A state senator removed the provision from the bill, but keeping your windows rolled up is still a good idea.
Credit: Jaromir Chalabala / EyeEm / Getty Images

I'll admit it. Seeing the headlines about a Florida bill banning dogs from poking their heads out of car windows had me thinking, "We really doing this?"

Who doesn't enjoy driving up next to a car and seeing a furry head hang out? The dogs love it. We love it. What are we doing here? But then I looked through the bill and chatted with experts like  Jenna Stregowski, RVT and Daily Paws' pet health and behavior editor, and Kristin Fischer, DVM, DACVO. Now I get it. 

"I've seen all the bad things, so I'm like, yup, any way that we can protect them," says Fisher, who practices at Animal Eye Care of the Lowcountry in South Carolina.  

The bill, introduced by Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book, is actually a wide-ranging collection of measures designed to preserve animal welfare. It would ban cat declawing; prohibit leaving a chained or leashed dog unattended; restrict cosmetic animal testing; and establish a public animal abuser registry. 

It also makes it illegal to hold dogs in your lap as you drive or let them roam around the vehicle freely. And yes, there's the proposed ban on letting your dog stick his noggin out the window. Well, there was a ban. Facing national backlash, Book said late this week she'd abandon that part of the bill.  

While we can argue about whether it should be illegal, letting your dog hang out a car window can be dangerous. It's a much safer option to keep the windows closed. 

Why You Should Keep Your Dog's Head Inside the Car

With his head out the window, your dog is vulnerable to debris from the road that can damage his eyes or head. Over 10 years as a veterinary technician, Stregowski treated several dogs who sustained wounds when they were hit by trees. Some dogs also suffered from corneal ulcers when debris hit them in the eyes.

Fischer has seen the same ocular injuries, though they are rare. Sometimes, a dog owner might now know it was something from the road that damaged their pup's peepers. 

She generally recommends people keep their windows up when driving with their dogs, and plenty of other veterinarians would prefer that you do it, too. Even the wind alone will dry your dog's eyes out. 

Then there are the cases of dogs who were injured jumping or falling from an open car window. Fischer used to work in an emergency vet practice, so she knows how serious those injuries can be. 

"I saw lots of dogs who jumped out of windows of cars or fell out of the back of a truck because, you know, they see a dog or a bird or a rabbit," she says.

So you should roll that window, but if you really, really don't want to, you can try a couple other options: 

  • Just open your car window a tiny bit—no more than a couple inches—to let your dog still get some sniffs in. 
  • See if your dog would be OK wearing dog goggles—aka doggles.
Credit: Wanda Jewell / Getty Images

What Else Does the Florida Bill Do? 

This legislation still needs to pass both houses of the Florida statehouse and could be amended, but here are the other measures it would codify: 

Bans Cat Declawing

If this provision passes, Florida would join Maryland and New York as states banning onychectomy surgery. The procedure actually results in the amputation of the last bones on each of a cat's toes. 

Veterinarians now largely discourage the surgery, though the Florida bill would allow the procedure if it has a "therapeutic purpose" for the cat. Any veterinarian violating the measure would be fined $1,000 and subjected to discipline from the state veterinary board. 

The Penny Bautista Act

Named for the puppy Dave Bautista adopted after she was found with a chain embedded in her neck, this measure would outlaw dogs and cats being tied up and left alone. If pets are tied up, a person would need to be nearby to look after them. 

Like a Texas law passed in 2021, the bill also bans leaving pets tied up during severe or extreme weather. Authorities would deliver a written warning on someone's first offense; a $250 fine for the second offense; and $500 fines for the third and subsequent violations.

Limits Cosmetic Animal Testing

The bill would outlaw the testing of cosmetic products on animals unless it met certain exceptions, including if the testing is "justified" in addressing a human health problem. 

Violators of the law would be fined at least $5,000. 

Establishes an Animal Abuser Registry

The registry would be publically accessible and include animal abuse convictions going back three to 10 years (depending on the severity of the offense). Offenders would have to register with their county sheriff's office and would be banned from owning or living with an animal unless they could secure a court order affording them permission. 

Pet sellers or dealers would be prohibited from "knowingly" selling a pet to a registered abuser.