Chicago Entrepreneur, Zerimax, Rallies Dog Lovers to Contact Local Legislators to Encourage Passage

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If Chicagoan Melissa Ramirez has her way, Illinois will be the safest place in the country for drivers, pedestrians and animals. The inventor of the Doggie Seatbelt for small dogs is working with legislators in Springfield to make it illegal to drive with an animal on your lap.

State Sen. Martin Sandoval, D-Cicero, flled a bill (, which will prohibit drivers from having animals on their laps while behind the wheel. The bill passed the Transportation Committee on Tuesday, May 1st, but on May 19th it failed to pass the State Senate with only 21 votes. Though, the issue hasn’t died just yet, Representative Daniel Burke felt strongly about this issue and sponsored a task force This creates the Safe Driving with Pets Task Force and charges it with the duty to recommend legislation to the General Assembly that protects drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and animals without unduly burdening law enforcement or drivers with unnecessary regulation.

Driving with a dog can be just as dangerous as talking on the phone or texting – especially if the animal gets excited. A distracted driver can easily cause an accident hurting passengers, other drivers, pedestrians and the pet.

In addition, not only can unrestrained dogs be distracting to the driver, but they are dangerous to themselves. A ten-pound unrestrained dog has the force of 80 pounds in a 40 mph car crash. That's 80 pounds of puppy smacking into the driver, other passengers or the car dashboard or floor.

Ramirez is determined to ensure the passage of the proposed bill by asking Illinois animal lovers to email their state representatives and ask them to protect animals and people from distracted drivers with an animal on their lap. She added a push button to her web site ( where animal supporters can input their zip code to receive the names and email addresses of state legislators that represent them and email them to support this movement – all with one click.

“We need to update our driving laws so passengers, pedestrians and pets are safe from distracted driving,” says Ramirez. “As a first step, 'Paris Hilton' style driving with a dog in your lap should not be legal.”

Hawaii is the only state that specifically prohibits a driver from operating a vehicle with a pet on his or her lap. The law prohibits a driver from allowing an animal, person, or object to interfere with his or her control of the vehicle. A similar law is in effect in Troy, MI.

Ramirez’ dedication to dog safety comes from the heart. After her 12-pound puppy Max became paralyzed from the waist down, while sitting in the front seat of her husband's car when it was T-boned by another driver, she became determined to raise awareness of the dangers of traveling with an unrestrained dog in a car. She invented Doggie Seatbelt to prevent other small dogs from going through the pain that Max suffered when he landed at the foot pedals. The belt fills the void of quality tested restraints for dogs less than 25 pounds. It quickly attaches to the pup’s existing harness and then to any backseat seatbelt to prevent him from wiggling free.

Zerimax, Inc. is an independent company founded by Ramirez to call attention to the dangers of traveling with an unrestrained dog in the car. The website includes ordering information for quality-tested car dog restraints, safety tips for traveling with dogs and updates on Chicago-area dog events.

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