Today a growing number of pet lovers are traveling with their dogs – whether that is to run daily errands, enjoy a day trip close to home, or experience a dream vacation. Unfortunately, though, the percentage of pet lovers who are traveling safely with their dog in the car remains quite low.
A safe dog travel study conducted by Kurgo and AAA showed that 85 percent of pet parents — for all that they love their dogs and enjoy taking them along for the ride — are not safely restraining their dog in the car.
Accidents can happen in the blink of an eye, and the thought of a fender bender — or worse — should encourage drivers to buckle up or otherwise restrain their dog in the car. Think you can hold onto that Pomeranian in the case of a crash? Think again. Kurgo, a manufacturer of pet travel and safety products, reports that even an unrestrained ten-pound dog will exert about 300 pounds of pressure in a crash at thirty miles per hour. Moreover, if you thought you would be able to reach for your Labrador after a sudden stop, you had better be prepared to hold what becomes about 2,400 pounds of pressure as his eighty-pound body becomes airborne at thirty miles per hour.
Not only do unsecured dogs put drivers — and their passengers — at risk during the crash, but they also present a safety issue after an accident. When emergency medical personnel need to access a car to provide potentially life-saving assistance, delays can occur in reaching an injured passenger or driver because of unrestrained protective dogs. Even if your dog is not acting protective, he will still be at risk of escaping when the car doors are opened.
A growing number of states are passing or considering laws that dogs be restrained in cars, but it does not take a law to follow common sense safety practices when transporting Fido. Here are five easy ways to travel safely with your dog in the car:
Buckle Up. Regardless of your car’s configuration, using a seat belt to secure your dog is one of the best ways to keep him safe. Some systems have a belt that snaps into your existing seat belt; others loop the shoulder or waist strap of your human seat belt through a loop in the dog’s harness.
Crate Up. Crates – or carriers in the case of small dogs – give your dog freedom of movement within an enclosed space. The crate or carrier is buckled to the seat belt in case of a sudden stop.
Booster Up. For small dogs, booster seats are a popular option since they provide your dog the opportunity to look out the window. Like a child’s booster seat, the chair is raised but your dog is securely buckled using his harness. (Never buckle to your dog’s collar, as this could result in a broken neck in the case of a sudden stop.) Booster seats are safest in the back seat; if you want to put it in the front seat, make sure you can turn off your passenger-side air bag.
Roll Up. Part of riding safely in the car is to ride IN the car, not with your dog’s head sticking out of the open window. Not only does an unsecured dog run the risk of falling or jumping out but even a secured dog with his head out of the window could be subject to terrible eye injury in the event of a flying rock, insect, or other piece of debris. Crack the window to give your dog the scent of fresh air without the danger.
Partner Up. Your dog is your travel partner — so that means he needs to be with you, whether you are in the car or out of the car. Never leave a dog unattended in the car; temperatures can soar to dangerous levels even on moderate days. (And dognapping is a very real risk as a growing number of criminals kidnap dogs for the reward.) You brought your dog along on the ride to be your companion, so plan the trip accordingly.
Traveling safely with your dog takes a few extra minutes of preparation — but it is a small price to pay for the knowledge that you are keeping your four-legged family member protected as you journey together.