Buckle Up! Keeping Pets Safe in the Car

I am pleased that the national calendar finally lists a Pet Travel Safety Day. And its in January – perfect, as this is the month of resolving to improve our habits.

If you stop to think about it, we strap in our kids (although, it took years to get this into law nationwide) and we strap down our luggage. Yet, for some reason it’s okay to let our pooches ride shotgun with their heads out the window or, even worse, sitting on the driver’s lap. I know it looks cute. But cute doesn’t cut it. It’s outright dangerous, not only for the pet’s safety, but also for the safety of the driver and passengers in the vehicle.

For a number of years, I have worked as a pet safety advisor for Toyota, attending events and chatting to pet lovers about pets in vehicles. I have discovered that very often, pet lovers with the best intentions simply haven’t stopped to think about their pet’s safety in a moving vehicle.

Research backed by the AAA proves that a 60 lb dog traveling at 35 mph turns into a 2700 lb moving projectile! At this speed, if unrestrained, your pet will fly through the windshield, causing you as the driver, to have a nasty accident. And the consequences can be fatal for both the pet and passengers. And 35 mph isn’t even considered traveling fast.

There are several states with laws on the books that require pets to be restrained, but no one is enforcing them. Late last year however, New Jersey finally took a stand and hopefully other states will begin following suit.

One of the biggest excuses that I often hear is a pet lover saying, “Oh, my Pumpkin/Fido/Rover doesn’t like to be restrained. Well, here is the wakeup call. Just like our kids, they don’t get a vote on the topic!

I recommend something like a Zipline system. A Zipline can be attached in the back seat section or even in a cargo section of an SUV. Any pet wearing a harness and a leash can be attached to the line (via the leash handle). This gives them freedom to move around, but at the same time stops them from coming to the front seat and distracting the driver. And, should you suddenly slam on the brakes, they will not be able to fly through the window, be hurt or even run away. With a Zipline, you can even attach multiple dogs.

The problem with small dogs, and the main reason they want to sit on your lap, is they want to look out the window. Well, there’s a wonderful answer for that, too. A dog booster seat will give a small dog a raised view to look out at the passing parade and at the same time be safely strapped into place.

When it comes to cats in carriers, or even hamsters in cages, the carriers are safest when placed on the floor section of the rear passenger area. If you suddenly brake, there is very little room for the cage to move. Of course, carriers and crates can always be restrained with special bungee cords.

If you travel a lot with your pets or even if you take them regularly on short rides to the store, it’s definitely worth taking them into consideration when you purchase a vehicle, too. Many of the vehicles that label themselves as ‘pet-friendly’ actually have lots of built-in features that make pets more comfortable during a journey.

So if you are shopping for a new vehicle, here are some safety-enhancing  features to look for:

  • Check that there is plenty of cargo space to house both small and large pets. This space should be big enough to hold two large crates side-by-side.
  • Look for plenty of hooks in both the back seat and the cargo areas to restrain pets with the use of a zip line.
  • A power-operated rear door makes it easy to juggle both pets and parcels.
  • Check if the vehicle has a safety system that offers rollover resistance, which is especially important for both people and pet passengers.
  • Tinted windows help to protect pets from harmful rays and keep the car interior cool.
  • Pets traveling in the back will also benefit from climate control and rear ventilation.

Please consider all of these options, whether you take your pet on vacation or on short trips. It is also extremely important that they have proper identification in the form of a collar, tag and a microchip. Proper ID is a lost pet’s ticket home.

Bone Voyage!

-Photo Credit: From flickr by Mysza831



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