Watch Tip: Restraining Pets in Automobiles

Posted on August 1st, 2012 by Trish Roman-Aquilino

Watch Tip LogoThis morning, as I drove to work, I passed a car with a medium-sized dog with at least half of his or her body hanging out a half-open window, completely unrestrained.  As the car made a left turn, I watched from my rear-view mirror, worried that the pooch was going to fly out of the window as the vehicle careened around the corner.  The dog did not, and I was grateful, but it is an example of the need for pet restraint and/or containment in a vehicle.

Loose Pets in Vehicles Pose Many Risks

There are many dangers in letting pets roam freely in automobiles, to them and to others.  The group, Bark Buckle UP, has a detailed and thorough website that includes not only why pets should be safe, but all types of pet travel tips and product reviews.  From their site:

  • A 60-pound pet becomes a 2,700 pound projectile, at just 35mph
  • Pet travel has increased 300% since 2005
  • Unrestrained pets delay emergency workers’ access to human occupants
  • Pets escaping post-accident pose many dangers, including catching the loose pet
  • Injured pets may bite first responders and rescue workers
  • Pets may escape through a window or open door and cause a second accident
  • Driver distraction is common when unrestrained pets are rambunctious

Case in point:  in a recent tragic accident in Arizona,  a Phoenix-area agility trainer, on her way back from a New Mexico competition, suffered the loss of two of her six dogs after they were all thrown from the vehicle upon impact.  Three dogs went missing from the crash site – one was quickly found nearby, deceased from injuries sustained in the accident.  Another dog was found deceased that evening, having been hit by a car after she fled the site; the third dog was thankfully found about a day later, in large part to a massive hunt pulled together by the animal welfare community and the dog’s guardian, who refused to be treated until she found her dogs.

Pet Restraints and Carriers

There are many ways of keeping your pets safe in the car these days.  Many companies manufacture dog harnesses with seat-belt attachments, carriers, and other innovative products to ensure pet safety, from booster seats with seat-belt attachments to zip-lines that connect to harnesses; whether you have a dog, cat, or ferret, there is a product out there that will help you to keep your pets safe!  Cats can be contained in carriers which are then restrained using belts. Many products can be found rather inexpensively on Amazon or eBay, just be sure you are purchasing an unused product from a trusted seller.

Also, a few states are beginning to require that pets are properly contained in vehicles, so be sure to check your local traffic laws:

  • New Jersey, under state law, NJSPCA officers can stop a driver they believe is improperly transporting an animal. Tickets range from $250 to $1,000 per offense, and a driver can face a disorderly person’s offense under animal-cruelty laws.
  • Hawaii explicitly forbids drivers from holding a pet on their lap.
  • In Arizona, Connecticut and Maine, distracted-driving laws can be used to charge drivers with pets on their laps

Finally, you would not let your toddler or infant roam freely throughout your vehicle; most of us will not let a passenger of any age ride in our vehicle without wearing a seat-belt for their safety.  Why should our pets be any different?  Although we like to think that their lives should be more carefree than our own, when it comes to safety, we must remember that we are responsible for their lives, and that may mean curbing a little bit of their freedom.

Pet restraint resources and products:



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