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Pet safety in your car

Car safety is all around us, in the news and in our cars. We've been bombarded with car-seat safety for children, airbag safety for infants, and seat-belt use for everyone. But how safe are your pets in your family vehicle? Unrestrained pets aren't just a driving hazard, they're a danger to you and themselves. They can disrupt your attention, but they can also suffer serious injury in an accident unless they're properly secured.

Dog in Car

Pet safety tips
Animal safety in cars is critical to your best friend's safety.

  • Airbags deployed in the front seat could harm your pet. An unrestricted pet will be thrown about and possibly injured, or injure a passenger during panic braking or in a collision. Pets should be restrained in the rear seat in pet harnesses or pet carriers that are secured by seat belts.
  • Don't let your cat or dog run around in the car. It's dangerous for both of you. Cats that don't like the car may go berserk and try to claw their way out, or claw at you, or at the very worst, climb under your pedals. Always cage cats and place the cage on the rear floor.
  • Don't let your dog hang his head out the window. He loves it, but it's an easy way for the pet to get eye damage from flying dust and dirt.
  • Don't smoke in the car. This can increase feelings of nausea in humans, so most likely it would do the same to your pet.
  • Don't let your dog or cat sit on your lap while you are in the driver's seat. It can be dangerous in a panic situation to try to maneuver around your pet.
  • Never, ever leave an animal inside a car on a very cold or hot day. Hundreds of animals are killed every year in this way.

Safe and secure
To bring your attention back to your driving, harness your pet in the rear seat. There are a few rules to protect you and your pet while traveling to the veterinarian, groomer, or just a pleasure trip with the family:

  • Never let an animal run free in the bed of a pickup truck. This is the primary cause of death with animals in car accidents. Please cage your pets if they must be in the back of a pickup truck. Then tie the cage to the bed so it doesn't move around in the bed of the truck.
  • Small dogs should be caged, and the cage should be secured. Place it on the floor or, better yet, belt it to the rear seat. Never allow a little dog to ride on your lap or help you drive by putting its paws on top of the wheel. Yes, it is really cute, but if the airbags deploy, this could lead to a bad situation. A lot of little dogs enjoy riding in the area under the back window. This is also a dangerous spot for them if you should stop suddenly.
  • Purchase a safety harness. It should be constructed of strong, soft nylon webbing and retain the animal around the body and neck. There are a variety of harnesses and attachments for both large and small dogs, that fit seat belts, like this one. When your pets wear these types of seat belts, they can lie down, sit up, or stand, but are safely restrained. The belts should be fully adjustable and nonirritating. These convenient, safe, easy-to-use harnesses connect to any existing automobile seat belt. Some harnesses have dual purposes, and you can unhook your pet from the car and use the same harness with his leash for quick-change convenience.

Look at it this way -- if adults and children shouldn't ride unrestrained, neither should your best friend. It only makes sense that if you care about your pets, you take the time to belt them properly.

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