You’ve seen the ads: Dogs riding in convertibles, wind in their fur, free….
…to become projectiles.
The safety benefits of car restraints for humans are no longer in dispute: 49 of 50 U.S. states have seat belt laws, and the same number of states require additional restraints for children — for example, rear-facing infant seats or child booster seats.
Yet people who wouldn’t dream of driving their kids around without buckling them in have a blind spot when it comes to their dogs. Harnesses? Crates? Booster seats? No way. “I don’t want to restrict my dog’s freedom,” these owners protest. Of them I ask, “Would you want your pup to enjoy the freedom of going through the windshield?”
For a safe ride with your pup, observe these basics:
#1: Dogs should always travel inside the vehicle
This might seem like a no-brainer but it bears repeating: it’s very dangerous to let a dog ride in the open bed of a pickup truck. Approximately 100,000 dogs die every year from falling or jumping out of pickups and countless more are injured.
#2. Driving with an unrestrained dog in your car is not only dangerous, but potentially expensive — and publicly humiliating.
Untethered dogs pose not only safety issues but legal and economic ones. Many states have passed variations of the law in Washington, where it’s a misdemeanor to “willfully transport or confine…any domestic animal… in a manner, posture or confinement that will jeopardize the safety of the animal or the public.” (Some laws specify that this includes having a dog in the back of a pickup truck.) Accordingly, if your unsecured dog causes an accident, your insurance is rendered invalid under many policies. And even if the accident is the other driver’s fault, your vet bills won’t be paid if your dog wasn’t properly restrained.
And then there’s the potential for unwelcome notoriety. You never know who you’ll hit if your dog distracts you to the point of causing an accident. Case in point: While walking along the side of the road in 1999, author Stephen King was struck by a minivan. Driver Bryan Smith claimed he had been distracted by his Rottweiler, Bullet, who was rooting around in the vehicle, trying to raid the food cooler. Smith, who died the following year of a drug overdose ruled accidental, subsequently turned up as a character in King’s Dark Tower series.
#3. Choose your restraints carefully
You’ll achieve the best dog security with a harness — never, ever, a collar — hooked to the car’s back seat belt. A regular harness will work in a pinch — pinch being the operative word — but the ones designed especially for travel have padding that insulates your dog against pressure caused by a sudden stop. The top models also have hooking mechanisms that let your dog move, though not too much, and are easy to click open and shut. See the “Product Reviews” section of AgilePooch.com for a travel halter comparison.
If your dog weighs less than 20 pounds, consider a booster seat, similar to the kiddie version. Not only is it a good restraint device, but a pup that can gaze out the window is less likely to get bored or carsick.
For more bloggers participating in the second annual Pet ‘Net Safety event, see www.petside.com/pet-net-2009