Monday, March 2, 2009

Canine Car Safety: Dogs Don't Come with Automatic Restraints

Ann from Chicago writes: Yesterday, I was picking up some cat food at Petco. As I was getting into my car, a woman drove up with a small dog in her lap. Having been schooled in the "Jill Cahr school of Pet Confrontation," I asked her if she also drove with a baby in her lap?!! It really does amaze me how irresponsible people can be when taking their dog in a car. An air bag deploying would have killed that dog! Or, when you see someone having to stop suddenly and their dog flies across the car.

Ann, you bring up an extremely important point. Dogs should always be restrained while in the car. Holding Fido in your lap does not count.

You wear a seat belt and so should your furry friend. A loose dog in a moving vehicle is a danger to himself and to people inside and outside the car. The dog can distract the driver, block her vision or interfere with her ability to steer or use the pedals. An unrestrained dog may even randomly decide jump out an open window. 

In an accident, an unrestrained dog will be thrown around the car or through the windshield at life-threatening velocity. According to Bark Buckle Up, a national pet safety program, an unrestrained 60 pound dog in a car traveling at 30-35 mph will cause an impact of 2,700 pounds. The dog probably won’t survive and the driver and passengers can be harmed if they collide with the dog. If the dog survives, he’ll be injured and scared and, thus, more likely to bite rescue workers or interfere with their work. Moreover, Fido could escape from the wreck and be hit by another vehicle or cause another crash.

A variety of dog restraints are available and easily attach to your vehicle (and your dog). The size of your dog will determine the best style of restraint. Doggie car seats raise small dogs up so they can see outside while they are safely attached to the car’s seat belt. Harnesses that attach directly to the seat belt are more comfortable for medium and large dogs.  

Crates and pet carriers are fine as long as they’re well ventilated and firmly attached to the vehicle. Otherwise, the crate will become a dangerous projectile in a crash. Purchase a restraint specifically designed for this purpose rather than making your own. Built-in vehicle barriers are available from the factory on many cars. These gadgets form a cage-like structure in the back of the vehicle.  

Which ever restraint you choose, practice installing it in the vehicle and on your dog before you rev the engine. Never restrain Fido in the front seat. If the airbag deploys, the impact can kill him.

Here's to safe travels!

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