Vehicle Safety For Pets



I always encourage folks to take their dogs for rides in the car. I just mention the word car and my three are waiting at the garage door. Those who know my car and my dogs know that we often go for rides to the post office, or just around.

They are not secured in seat belts or carriers. They, like most, love to have their heads sticking out the window, lapping up that fresh air and seeing all there is to see.


After the frightening accident, Ginger is now safe in the kennel -- well-secured in the back seat of the new vehicle.

If you ask the dog, he will tell you that he wants his head out the window.

The dangers of this are obvious. A small piece of gravel or road debris could hit him in the face, particularly the eyes, and the results would be terrible. And if you had to stop suddenly, the dog would probably break his neck.

People wear seat belts, or they are supposed to. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that three-fourths of all passengers who are thrown from a vehicle during an accident are killed. Wearing a seat belt prevents this.

If you were involved in an accident going 30 mph, anyone in your car, including your dog, could exert a force of 20 times their body weight easily sending them through the windshield.

Their chances of survival are slim. But also, the dog, being projected through the vehicle, could do severe damage to anyone riding in the car, whether belted in or not.

Dogs riding in the front seat of a vehicle are subject to the same dangers as children are vulnerable to. If the air bag deploys (200 mph) it could severely injure or kill a dog.

That is one reason children are no longer allowed to sit in the front seat. The front passenger seat is the most dangerous location in the vehicle.

Another consideration: Suppose you were in an accident and were injured. If your dog was not restrained, would he interfere with those attempting to help you? If he posed a threat, he would be shot.

In the year 2000, 1.5 million U.S. accidents were reported to be linked to driver distraction. According to an AAA study, loose pets were the third largest distraction for drivers.

My Higgins has decided that during our frequent trips to the Valley, his favorite place is with his head between the front seats so he has access to cool air from the air conditioner. Now, he wants that position all the time. I know it is not safe, either for him or for me.

I have just installed a dog harness in the back seat of the car. Higgins will not like it much, but I know he and I will be much safer.

And what about dogs in the back of pick-up trucks? Most of us cringe when we see dogs hanging out of the trucks as they speed along the highway. According to the American Humane Society, at least 100,000 dogs die each year when they fall, jump or are thrown from the back of a truck.

Even if the dog survives the fall, he most likely will be killed by oncoming vehicles. Many states have laws prohibiting or restricting dogs in the back of trucks.

Ideally, the dog should ride in the back portion of the cab. Next best is a kennel or crate in the back which is secured. There are harnesses for pick-ups -- and cross-tying does work if done properly. Just tying the dog will result in strangulation if the dog falls or jumps out of the truck.

Ira and Roz Gibel were involved in an accident which, though not their fault, totaled their truck. They were both wearing seat belts but their precious Ginger was loose in the small back seat of the pickup.

Fortunately, Roz instinctively grabbed Ginger and prevented her from flying through the windshield. Ira said, "Unfortunately, it should not have taken an accident for us decide to restrain Ginger. We had been talking about the need to do it."

Ira taught driver's education to high school students and he would tell them -- "when you hit the brakes, you stop the tires, but whatever is in the car will keep moving at the same speed the car was going." Further, he would tell the doubting kids -- "run as fast as you can across the room head first into the wall on the other side. You are probably running at 6 to 10 miles per hour. What would that do to your head?"

The students would begin to understand.

Ginger now rides in a kennel in the back seat of their new vehicle. The kennel is secured by three triple strength bungies and the inside of the crate has soft padding all around. She can see out, which she loves, but she is safe.

They selected the crate rather than a harness for Ginger because she is very active and likes to move around. They felt that she would feel freer in the kennel.

Whatever method we choose to secure our dogs, we owe it to them to give them the same protection we give ourselves and our human passengers. They need to either be harnessed or in a kennel which is well secured. ra said, "If you love your dog, protect it in the car."

So, can I safely allow my dogs to be free in the car during our daily ride to the post office?

Christy Wrather is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at or by snail mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.