Pet Safety and Your Car

by Lauren Fix, The Car Coach®

You’re belted in properly — but what about man’s best friend?

We’ve been bombarded with car-seat safety for children, airbag safety for infants, and seat-belt use for everyone. But how safe are your pets in your family vehicle?

- Does your pet jump on your lap?

- Run from the front to back seats?

- Climb under your feet?

- Hang out the window?

Unrestrained pets aren’t just a driving hazard, they’re a danger to you and themselves. They can disrupt your attention, and they can also suffer serious injury in an accident unless they’re properly secured. Animals need safety protection as much as their human drivers.

PET SAFETY TIPS

Animal safety in cars is critical to your best friend's safety.

  1. Restraints and Airbags
    Airbags deployed in the front seat could harm your pet. And, an unrestricted pet will be thrown about and possibly injured, or injure a passenger during panic braking or in a collision. Pets should be restrained in the rear seat in pet harnesses or pet carriers that are secured by seat belts.
  2. No Running
    Don't let your cat or dog run around in the car - it's dangerous for both of you. Cats who don't like the car may go berserk and try to claw their way out, or claw at you, or at the very worst, climb under your pedals. Always cage cats and place the cage on the rear floor.
  3. Heads Out the Window? No.
    Don't let your dog hang his head out the window. He loves it, but it's an easy way to get eye damage from flying dust and dirt.
  4. No Smoking, Please
    Don't smoke in the car. This can increase feelings of nausea in humans, so most likely it would do the same to your pet.
  5. No Laps
    Don't let your dog or cat sit on your lap while you are in the driver's seat. It can be dangerous in a panic situation to try to maneuver around your pet.
  6. Too Hot? Too Cold? Not in the Car!
    Never, EVER leave an animal inside a car on a very cold or hot day. Every year, hundreds of animals are killed this way.

SAFE AND SECURE

To keep your attention on driving, harness your pet in the rear seat. Here are a few rules to protect you and your pet while traveling to the veterinarian, groomer, or just a pleasure trip with the family

  1. Not in the Pick-up Truck
    Never let an animal run free in the bed of a pickup truck. This is the primary cause of death with animals in accidents. If your pet must be in the back of a pickup truck, please cage them, and then tie the cage to the truck bed so it doesn’t move around.
  2. Cage Them
    Small dogs (and cats) should be caged and the cage should be secured. Place it on the floor or, better yet, belt it to the rear seat.
  3. No Lap Dogs While Driving
    Never allow a little dog to ride on your lap or help you drive by putting its paws on top of the wheel. Yes, it is really cute, but if the airbags deploy, this could lead to a bad situation.

    A lot of little dogs also enjoy riding in the area under the rear window. This is also a dangerous spot for them if you should brake suddenly.

  4. Get a Safety Harness
    Purchase a safety harness. It should be constructed of strong, soft nylon webbing and retain the animal around the body and neck. There are a variety of harnesses and attachments that fit seat belts. Surf the internet for “pet seat belts” and you’ll find a host of offerings.

    When your pets wear these types of seat belts, they can lie down, sit up, or stand, but are safely restrained. The belts should be fully adjustable and non-irritating. These convenient, safe, easy-to-use harnesses connect to any existing automobile seat belt. Some harnesses have dual purposes, and you can unhook your pet from the car and use the same harness with his leash for quick-change convenience.

Look at it this way — if adults and children shouldn’t ride unrestrained, neither should your best friend. It only makes sense that if you care about your pets, you take the time to belt them properly.

Reviewed 9/2009