Spring is here and summer is coming. With more inviting weather, more people will be planning and taking road trips with their dog(s). But will people and dog(s) both be using appropriate safety restraints on these trips?
Dr. Jason Nicholas, BVetMed, just posted a blog covering this very subject. The reasons for using pet restraints—and the arguments against them—sound remarkably familiar for one who grew up at the time seat belts first became available in, and then became mandatory in cars, resulting in debates over whether using seat belts should be mandatory, and if so for whom: Drivers only? All passengers or only those in the front seats? Children? … and for children and infants, were adult seatbelts safe enough?
As you do with human restraint systems—seatbelts, airbags and child-safety seats and harnesses—you choose and use pet restraint devices to provide greater safety for all concerned. You should protect your pets in this way because doing so also protects everyone in the vehicle—and ultimately, everyone else on the roads with you.
Protect your pets
So, you want to protect your pets from:
- being thrown into the windshield, back of a seat, or dashboard by an accident or sudden stop, which could cause their injury or death.
- being thrown out of the vehicle in an accident or sudden stop, which could cause their injury or death directly, through getting hit by other traffic, or through the pet panicking, running away and getting lost.
- ‘bolting’ out of a vehicle through an open door, car window or back of a truck or van, especially when the vehicle has slowed or stopped.
- getting at things they shouldn’t get into in the vehicle, whether food, meds, or personal belongings.
- suffering increased stress and anxiety. (Many pets become less anxious about travel when they feel physically secure in a crate or harness.)
Protect people in the vehicle
But more than just protecting the pets, restraining your pets safely also protects the driver and all human passengers from:
- severe injuries and possible death, by preventing pets from becoming high- velocity, panicky projectiles in an accident or sudden stop.
- accidents or emergencies caused by pets nudging the driver’s elbow, getting under the driver’s feet, or otherwise distracting the driver.
Protect everyone else
By keeping your pets safely restrained in vehicles, you also help prevent accidents and minimize hazards when accidents occur because:
- Your pets haven’t distracted the driver and caused an accident.
- You haven’t been caught up in an accident through your pets becoming projectiles in (or ejected from) your vehicle as you brake suddenly to avoid an existing accident or road hazard
- Your pets haven’t jumped out of an open car window or the back of a truck, becoming road hazards themselves and causing accidents when people swerve or stop suddenly to avoid hitting them.
- In case your vehicle does become involved in an accident, you protect first responders from unrestrained injured, fearful, or confused pets who could bite emergency personnel in a misplaced effort to ‘protect’ their people, slowing the delivery of medical care (potentially life-saving) to anybody involved in the accident.
Unsure what kinds of restraints work, or which would be most appropriate for your pet? Dr. Nicholas will be reviewing harness, booster seat, “cargo net” and crate options for safety and ease of use in his blog, The Preventive Vet, such as this post about the Bergan travel harness.
I drew heavily from the ideas posted by Dr. Nicholas when writing this column. I’ve covered road safety before and will do so again … probably every time I see a pet sitting on a driver’s lap or sticking its head through an open sunroof as a car or truck drives past me.