How Safe Is Your Dog Riding In The Car?
There is now a certification to help you to choose the safest dog harness on the market.
Since this blog was originally published, the Center For Pet Safety (CPS) established a program for the certification of pet safety harnesses. This is long overdue so we are thrilled that our pets may soon be as safe in our cars as we are.
There are many harnesses and some crates on the market that claim to be “crash tested” but until now there have been no guidelines for what passing or failing that test would look like.
The CPS’s Safety Harness Crash Test Protocol and Rating System outlines a consistent testing and evaluation program to ensure harnesses offer crash protection. Their program is voluntary but we hope manufacturers will participate so you will be able to purchase a harness that has been proven to keep dogs safe in the event of an accident. The tested harnesses will have a Safety-Certified Seal on their packaging so look for them the next time you need a harness to be sure your dog is safely buckled up! If you use a harness on your dog in your car, why not contact the manufacturer today to encourage them to participate?
I was prompted to write this blog because of an experience I had over the weekend.
While running some errands I walked past a gentleman sitting in a parked car with Fergie, a beautiful, yellow Labrador Retriever puppy sitting in the passenger’s seat. Being drawn like a magnet to the puppy, I stopped to say hello. We chatted while I got my puppy fix and as I was leaving I said to him, “Please be careful traveling with her that way.” He said, “Oh, no, I have her on leash. She is perfectly safe.”
People travel with their dogs loose in the car all the time without giving it a second thought. I have talked to dozens of people about the dangers of riding with a loose dog and have been told:
- “She’s so good in the car, she just lays on the front seat.”
- “He hates to be in the back, he wants to be up front with me.”
- “I know it’s not the safest thing to do, but I am just going to the vet’s office.”
You get the idea. Most people easily see the danger of allowing dogs to ride in the back of a pickup truck or on the lap of the person driving, but rarely think about the safety of their dog, assuming that because they are well behaved in the car they are perfectly safe. And of course, nobody thinks they are going to have an accident.
Here’s the cold, hard reality:
Dogs need to be secured in a car the same way children and adults do. If while driving you hit something at 50 miles an hour your car will stop abruptly but anything not secured in the car will continue traveling at 50 miles an hour. If you have an accident, and your dog survives, she could be thrown from the car and end up roaming loose, most likely dazed and frightened, possibly making it harder to catch her if and when she is found.
I personally know of three people who have had horrific accidents with dogs in their cars. In every one of those accidents the dogs that were loose were either thrown from the car, after which they ran away and were found many days later, or were killed. There are no guarantees that your dog will survive a terrible accident, but why not stack the deck in her favor?
What can you do to make your dog’s travels safer?
Crate your dog
There are many types of crates available. Most crates can be secured to the vehicle by bolting them in place. You can expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $1,000 on a metal crate. The safest option is to get a crash-tested crate such as the Pro Line Crate or the Variocage, which come with pretty hefty price tags. But when you think about it, what price would you put on your dog’s life?
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Your next best option would be to get the best quality wire crate you can. A few of the companies that offer wire crates are Midwest, Precision, Central Metal and Kennel Aire. When choosing a wire crate know that the lower the number on the gauge of the wire the thicker, more sturdy the wire will be. Get the heaviest gauge crate you can.width=”300″ height=”286″ />
A third option is a plastic airline crate. These crates are fairly sturdy but have much less ventilation and visibility than a wire crate. Although really easy to travel with, the popular soft-sided and pop-up crates are not intended for use in a vehicle and will provide no real security for your dog in the event of an accident.
Of course, not everyone has enough room in their car to keep a crate for their dog. So here is another option:
Strap Your Dog In With A Car Harness
If you do an internet search you will find many car harnesses on the market. Be sure to choose one that has been tested using the Center for Pet Safety’s Safety Harness Crash Test Protocol and Rating System, mentioned above.
Keep your dog in the back seat
If you insist on letting your dog ride loose in the car, the very least you can do is never allow her in the front seat while you are moving. As with children, the airbags that are installed in most vehicles these days can kill a dog if activated. From experience I can tell you that it does not take much of an accident to have an airbag go off.
The next time you ask your dog, “Do you want to go for a ride?” think about the risks she faces because of the way you have chosen for her to travel in your car. Then do your very best to reduce those risks! Oh, and be sure to wear your seatbelt, too!
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