Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Restrain Your Dog When Riding in the Car:

Whenever I visit my hometown of Camden, South Carolina one thing I don’t look forward to seeing are dogs loose in the beds of pick up trucks (I see it all the time there). I cringe every time I see this, because it is extremely risky and dangerous for the dog. Over 100,000 dogs are killed each year because they jumped out of a moving pickup truck bed or were thrown from an open vehicle as it was driving down the road or highway. Many states have tried to pass bills to regulate transportation of dogs in pick up trucks, but the legislation rarely passes. California has a law stating a dog must be in a crate or cross tied while riding in the bed of a pick up truck, and violators can be fined $50 to $250. For more information about states with tethered dog laws visit:

Photo by: Ferlinka Borzoi

If you must put your dog in the bed of your truck put a sturdy crate that has plenty of air vents in the center of the truck, secured down ropes or tethers. The next safest way for a dog to ride in a truck bed is tethered on a short leash, with the leash attached to a harness, not a collar. I frequently see people with seeming good intentions tying their dogs with long ropes or leashes attached to the dog’s collar in the truck bed – in the event of an accident this could cause your dog to hang to death, literally strangling your dog.

Photo by: BC SPCA

The safest method of transporting a dog in a truck is in a crate centered in the truck bed, and securely tied down.

Photo by: Super Cool Pets

At the bare minimum, a dog riding in a truck bed needs to be tethered with a secure and short leash attached to a harness to prevent strangulation and death in the event of an accident.

If you decide the bed of the truck is not the place for your dog, just putting a dog in the cab of a truck, or letting a dog ride loose in the car is still dangerous. I recently asked a vet how many patients she sees that are victims of car accidents, and she said too many to count, and then noted none had been properly restrained. Each year over 100,000 of dogs are injured, killed or become unnecessarily lost in car accidents – these injuries are completely avoidable.

You might be the safest driver, but there are some things on the road you cannot prevent. A dog in a pick up bed could jump out, you might have to swerve to miss something and the dog could fall out, you could have a blow out and the dog could go flying, or what happens if you are hit by another car? Not to mention there is a huge risk of flying debris, dust, dirt or pollen hitting the soft tissue of your dog’s eye -- resulting in infection, injury and painful trauma. If your dog rides in the car with you, no matter how tempting, please do not allow it to hang its head out the window, trust me, eye injuries are not fun. If after reading this you are still tempted to roll down the window and let your dog see the sights, please invest in a pair of Doggles for eye protection.

Photo by: Travel Pets

While this dog is wearing proper eye protection, it appears to not be restrained with a harness or seat belt.

A dog loose in a car, though a bit safer than one unrestrained in a truck bed, is still not safe. If you were to have an accident your dog most likely would fly through the windshield, and if it did survive, it might be terrified and run into on coming traffic. Also, always remember to keep your pet out of the front seat to protect him or her from airbags. An airbag deploying could very easily kill your beloved pet.

In the event of a crash, pets go from furry friends to flying objects and can cause serious injury or death to themselves and others. In fact, the British Columbia SPCA reports, a 50-pound pet, when traveling at speeds of 50km/hour (approximately 31 mph), has the weight of approximately one ton!

Types of dog restraints for automobiles:

Selecting the right restraint for your dog is enough to make your head spin – there are so many options on the market. In the end, it all boils down to personal preference based on many individual factors. Below I will explain various ways to help you make the most educated decision possible when selecting the restraint for your dog and your vehicle.

The safest way to travel with your dog is to have him crated, and this is far and away the safest if you are traveling with any equipment or tools in your car that could shift during impact. Equipment or tools can be deadly in an accident, not only to the driver, but to the dog too. The crate method, though safest, is only an option if you have the space available. The crate does not need to be tied down (though that will increase safety), but it does need to be a sturdy crate that is latched shut. The vet I spoke with said dogs that are crated in accidents frequently can survive even when the humans do not, and it makes sense. In essence, you are creating a protective barrier, much like rollover bars on a race car, for your dog. Less safe than a hard sided crate, but still a safety option, is a soft sided crate. If you go this route, I highly recommend securing the soft crate.

Photo by: UK Dog Guards

Photo by: Sterling and Omega Flat Coated Retrievers

A soft crate that could be used in a car.

Another way to restrain your dog is using a dog seat belt. These are a convenient alternative to crating, because they are small in size (about the size of a regular dog harness) and you can keep it in your car at all times. There are many different types, but they all incorporate the car’s seat belt with the special harness to restrain your dog. The only draw back with these types of harnesses is your dog has to be on the seats for them to work, and if you have nice leather seats this might not be your favorite solution. Dog seat belts are a great way to travel if you are transporting dogs that get along, but if the dogs in your car do not get along you will need to have them crated.

Photo by: Cargo Gear

For small dogs, a dog car seat is an option. Available in numerous styles, they are secured with your seat belt or with an included restraint attachment that connects to your seat or seat belt. Dog car seats elevate small dogs so they can look out the window, and are padded for added canine comfort.

Photo by: Pet Squared

The last way, though safer than riding loose in the car, but not nearly as safe as being crated or restrained with a seat belt, is for SUV and station wagon owners – the dog barrier. These barriers, the safest are the types that are physically bolted into the car’s ceiling; prevent your dog from coming over the back seat. However, in an accident, the rear door/hatch of an SUV or station wagon may open, and the dog would not be restrained if this occurred.

Photo by: Tuffy Products

If you own a sedan or similar car your dog most likely rides on the seats anyways. To protect your seats you can purchase seat covers, and to protect your pooch for under $40 you can purchase a dog seat belt harness or similar restraint.

So before you ask your pooch, “want to go for a ride?” think about what would happen in an accident, and properly restrain your best friend. A properly restrained dog, even if an accident does not occur, will also keep the driver safe, because the dog cannot come to the front of the car, and distractions are kept to a minimum.

Why Restrain Your Dog?

  • Dogs can distract the driver by moving around in the vehicle, trying to jump into the front seat, or barking excessively. Driver distractions are a leading cause of accidents..
  • Heaven forbid you were involved in an accident; your pup might escape from the car and become lost. Accidents are scary, especially for dogs, and their instinct to flee the situation goes into over drive during traumatic experiences.
  • In the event of an accident, your dog could be seriously injured, maimed or killed if loose in your vehicle.
  • Other equipment or items in your car can injure your dog in even the smallest fender bender.

It doesn’t have to be this way! These injuries are completely avoidable. By being safe, aware, cautious and educated you can prevent this from happening to you and your pet. You can help others by taking the time to educate them and raise awareness of safe pet travel.

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  1. Thanks for sharing this. I definitely need to get my Oliver some kind of seatbelt.

  2. Your post promted me to go out and buy Hershey a seat belt! She isn't loving, but she will adjust soon enough. I would rather have her safe! The accident with my mom, brother, Roo, Cam, and Otter really shows the importance of securing dogs in cars. Luckily all 3 were found with minimal injuries, but it could have been a lot worse for them!

  3. Excellent have so thoroughly addressed that there is not a "one answer fits all dogs for proper vehicle restraint".

  4. This was such an informative post! Human and animals are so important in our lives because we are all created by God. And keeping our pets safe is one way of taking good care of animals. Also, take good care of your investments as well. One of those are cars.

    One time I encountered a minor accident, and my car got damaged so I went to a shop that do collision repair. Plano has great and trusted shops that offer collision repair. Plano, Tx people are also great in accommodating visitors so I got entertained while they were repairing my car.

  5. These tips can be a lot helpful for the people who have to travel with their dogs. They can keep their dog inside the car with these beneficial guidelines.
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  6. There are many safety measures we need to consider while traveling with our dogs. We should not compromise in the quality of pet products like dog bandanas, costumes for dogs and harnesses.

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