By Sari Reis
We are all familiar with the sight of a passing car with a dog’s head hanging out the window; his ears blowing back in the wind and a big sloppy grin on his face. The vision may bring a smile, but that pup may be in danger as well as a safety hazard should that car be involved in an accident.
Many dog owners feel that their dog just wouldn’t be happy if he can’t have his head stretched out the window while going for a car drive. Having a happy dog is important, but his or her safety should always come first. An inadequately restrained dog in a moving vehicle could have serious repercussions. Whether it be an outing to the veterinarian, the groomer, dog beach, or a road trip for summer vacation, it is your responsibility to keep your furry companion safe when accompanying you in your car.
Here are some important considerations:
- A dog who is unrestrained can be a big distraction to the driver. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 10 percent of all fatal crashes and 18 percent of injury crashes involve some sort of driver distraction.
- An unrestrained small dog, if he is in the front seat, can easily jump down under the driver’s feet impeding the ability to accelerate or step on the brakes if needed. He can also interfere with proper steering if seated in the driver’s lap. Hawaii, Connecticut, Illinois and Maine have all banned motorists from driving with their pets in their laps.
- A loose dog in a car can be killed or seriously injured should there be an accident and the airbag is deployed.
- When a dog is traveling with his head out the window, debris from the road can easily hit him in the eyes, nose or mouth causing serious injury.
- A loose dog in a car can become a projectile if the car is hit, causing injury not only to himself, but anyone in the vehicle.
- Should there be an accident, the dog may easily escape the car and run away.
- If a dog is not properly restrained and is hanging out of a window or in the back of a pick-up truck, he may decide to jump out if he is distracted by something outside the vehicle.
- There are currently no government standards for car restraints for dogs, so it is up to each dog owner to ferret out the best and safest restraints. You want something comfortable for your companion, but it must be safe under all sorts of potential impacts.
- Here are some suggestions:
- Crates or kennels that can be secured in the seat.
- Harnesses that work in conjunction with car seat belts.
- Car seats that also work together by fitting into seat belts.
- Car barriers that block off a section of the car.
The Center for Pet Safety, together with Subaru tested several of the current harnesses available. Check out their report at Consumer Reports.org. You can also check out vetbabble.com, “Choosing the Right Car Restraint for your Dog,” as well as several other sites on the internet.
Accidents happen and restraining your dog safely will give you peace of mind as well as protecting your “best friend” when you are “on the road again.”
— Sari Reis is a certified humane education specialist and the owner of Mission Valley Pet Sitting Services. For more information, call 760-644-0289 or visit missionvalleypetsitting.com.