Many dogs enjoy poking their heads out of a car windows to feel the wind. It sure is cute, but leaving a pet loose in your car can be both a danger to you and your pet.
Just as with small children, dogs need to be safely restrained in a vehicle to avoid distractions to the driver and minimize possible injury to the dog and other passengers in the car.
If a dog becomes a projectile in a crash, he/she can be seriously injured and can injure and kill other occupants in the vehicle.
Restraining Your Pet Properly
There are a few basic safety tips when securing your dog in your car:
Most products used to secure your dog in a car will be adequate in keeping your pet from moving around, but they are unlikely to keep your pet safe during an accident. The overwhelming fact is that the majority of tethering and restraining methods for pets in vehicles are not built to withstand the forces of an accident, and do not meet with the road safety standards set for humans. This has been backed by scientific research.
A dog thrown in an accident can exert a force of up to 20 times their own bodyweight if propelled in an accident. That means in a 30 miles per hour collision, a 60 pound dog who is thrown in a crash, exerts 1200 pounds of weight! (Metrically, in a 48 kmph collision a 27 kilo dog who is thrown in a crash, exerts 544 kilos of weight.)
Crash test with standard crate, shows "dummy dog" thrown into back of front seat
The video below, clearly demonstrates what happens to during an accident to a dog secured by many of the standard methods used today. (Note, the video is in German.)
So, if most restraining methods are unsafe, what should you use? Firstly, there will be trade-offs between convenience and safety. Research which products will be most appropriate for the type of vehicle you own and for the size of your dog. Also, where you decide to seat your dog in the vehicle will help determine to what product is best for you to use.
Harnesses/Tethers /Seat-belt Systems
Many standard dog harnesses have a seat-belt loop to attach to a car seatbelt. Although convenient, the majority of these harnesses are not designed to withstand the forces of impact during a car crash, and will likely fail. For example, harnesses made with nylon / plastic buckles will simply break under enough pressure.
When selecting a harness to attach to your car's seatbelt look for one that is:
Although dog auto harnesses have failed to meet crashworthiness standards for human safety, and therefore have no guarantees to keep your dog completely safe in crash situations, it is still safer to have a dog tethered than not. Quality varies a great deal when it comes to auto harnesses so do your research. A few harnesses that appear to be higher quality than average include: Ruff Riders Roadie, CHAMPION Canine Seat Belt System, and Bergan Dog Auto Harness.
Crates / Cages / Carriers
One common method of securing dogs in a car is by placing them in a crate and then securing the crate to the car's seat belt. This will secure your dog, but keep in mind that your dog is still loose in the crate.
Most crates are made from cheap plastics that are simply meant to help you carry your dog around. Such crates can explode in an accident due to the force of a loose dog hitting from the inside of the crate. (Soft crates will not explode.)
Crates are best if placed in the rear of a vehicle (in a SUV, or hatchback, never in a trunk). When considering a crate or cage, look for on that:
Gates / Barriers / Dog Guards
Gates / barriers are used to divide a pet in the rear part of an SUV or hatchback from the front of the car. The gate usually fastens to the floor and ceiling of the car. A gate will keep your pet away from the driver but it will not protect the dog in a crash. If a dog is placed in the rear of a vehicle he/she should still be tethered or caged to avoid him/her getting thrown forward or escaping from the vehicle post-accident.
In the Event of an Accident
In the event of an accident, emergency responders must call Animal Services to retrieve pets from accident scenes. It benefits everyone if your pet is quickly and easily retrieved, managed and identified. To this end, be sure to have your pet's identification and care instructions included in your car's glove compartment.
If your pet requires hospitalization, the shelter will make decisions on your pet's care, unless a family member/owner can be contacted right away. In emergency cases, vets do need permission to treat your pet. If they cannot reach you or another emergency contact, your pet may not be treated at all.
For your dog's identification:
For your care instructions, include your pet's name and important medical information. This can include your pet's medical insurance information, emergency contact details, veterinarian's contact information, local emergency pet ER locations and telephone numbers.
Have any suggestions for road safety you would like to share? Feel free to comment below.
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