Sometimes, for a short run to the local grocery store, dog owners may invite their beloved pooches simply to hop into the vehicle, and off they go. If the day is warm, they may give some thought to the danger of leaving Fido inside the vehicle while parked. But less commonly does buckling them up like all the other passengers come to mind. BC has a good buckle-up rate for human beings—ICBC’s website says 91.6 percent for drivers and human passengers.
If anecdotal evidence is a guide, the pet buckle-up rate must be well below 50 percent. For all the well-publicized warnings against transporting a dog unsecured in the back of a pickup truck, even this practice continues.
Put it this way: restraining your dog inside your vehicle while you are driving can help you avoid a whole heap of troubles. A recent American Automobile Association study ranked pets and loose objects as the third worst in-car distraction—worse than cell phone usage (#6), eating and drinking (#5) and adjusting climate controls (#4). Adjusting the radio or CD player was ranked number one followed by children or other human passengers.
Even well behaved dogs can be momentarily distracted and therefore momentarily distracting. Restraining a dog is a whole lot easier than trying to guard against escape every time a window or door opens. A dog who jumps out of even a slow moving vehicle may suffer serious or fatal injury. Restraint systems also help stabilize them when the vehicle is braking, cornering, and accelerating, which in turn may help dogs who are fearful in cars, or who suffer from carsickness.
If a crash happens, an unrestrained dog can become a projectile exerting hundreds or even thousands of pounds of “impact force” on other occupants of the vehicle. A restraint system can minimize this risk and help protect the dog by absorbing and distributing some of this force across the stronger areas of its body. A dog who has been in a crash is likely in shock, confused, injured, and protective. In this condition, unrestrained, it may attack rescuers. For all these reasons, some jurisdictions (especially in the United States) legally require all animals to be tethered in vehicles.
There are many dog “seat belts” on the market. Generally they come in different sizes to fit around the upper body and are designed to attach to the vehicle seat belts. Restraints that allow for some movement are ideal. Some are multi-purpose with a ring on the back of the harness for leash attachment. The safest place for your dog is the middle back seat. This minimizes the risk to the dog from airbag deployment. Traveling with your dog in a crate or cage is not recommended. In a crash, an unsecured crate or cage will also become a deadly projectile. If the crate is secured, your dog will be propelled against its walls.
For information about transporting a dog safely go to www.DogCars.com, which reviews vehicles and equipment for canine-friendliness and convenience from a dog owner’s point of view.