Pet Car Safety Is Gaining Speed7 min read

 In Cats, Dogs, General



People always think about buckling up when they get into any vehicle.  This safety concern has been hard wired into us because seat belts do save lives.  It sort of becomes akin to muscle memory.  Each person is different in his or her routine but we buckle ourselves in first before turning on the ignition.  What about the pets?  Many people do not properly secure their pets while the vehicle is in motion. If a car with an unsecured pet is involved in an accident, injury to the pet is practically assured.  Let’s take a look at what an unsecured pet can do while a car is in motion.




Distractions while driving are turning into a national nightmare!  I walk at least 4 miles every morning and while walking, people are doing everything but driving the car.  Applying lipstick, makeup, yakking on the phone, eating breakfast, drinking coffee and the list goes on and on.  Animals that can roam around the interior compartment of the car can distract a driver to the point of causing an accident. Barking, panting and other normal canine behavior often causes you to look back and see what is causing the commotion in the back seat.  That one second taken off of looking at the road ahead can be dangerous.

Cats are even worse.  They hate car rides- period!  Anyone that has traveled with a cat knows that abhorrent howling that cats make when they feel insecure.  Cats do not like the motion of a car.  They want stability and are the most habitual of animals known to man. Changing furniture around will upset most cats.  Cats are very quick and can jump on your shoulder with their claws embedded into your clothes.  When cats roam free they often find their way behind the brake or accelerator pedal.  This can be dangerous!  Remember cats are Houdinis in disguise!  They can get into or in between any small space.   When pet car safety is compromised it can scare the living daylights out of anyone leading to a possible car accident.




I have seen the majority of these types of accidents involving pets and cars.  When pet car safety is compromised dogs and cats can easily get injured.  Dogs are going to get injured when they are sitting on or have their forelimbs positioned on the console between the two front seats.  Even if the brakes are applied gently the dog can easily fly into the instrument panel, possibly hurting itself.  Even worse are little dogs that are being held by the driver or sitting on their laps. This slows down driver reaction time and an animal can get slammed into the steering column or injured during the opening of air bags in an accident.  Never do this!  Dogs and cats are much smaller than humans and because of their smaller size are more fragile when the forces of an accident come bearing down on them.  Pet car safety measures will prevent the majority of these problems.

I do not know a dog alive that doesn’t like hanging its head out of an open window.  The feeling of a cool breeze on a dog’s face is exhilarating.  There is a negative side to this and a component of pet car safety. Heads hanging outside of a car are exposed to road debris that can be thrown up and can strike the animal in the head causing a head injury.  More common are small pieces of detritus that smack right at the cornea of the eye causing corneal ulcers or blindness.   Simple pet car safety measures such as shutting the windows when pets are present and putting the A/C on is prudent.

Problems arise when dogs jump out of a pick up bed or through a passenger car window.  Animals are tempted by the freedom of such situations.  They then see a rabbit dart by and off they go.  In my own professional career I treated a dog that jumped out of a pickup bed and its head slammed against a tree stump.  The animal did not survive it’s injuries.  Another, jumped out, landed wrong and dislocated its hip.  I have had several cases of dogs that were tied up in the bed of a pickup truck, jumped out and their lower extremities basically ground up on the asphalt while they were hanging by a leash while the vehicle was still moving.  Most people may think all of this is fictional and made up but believe me, this stuff happens frequently.  Just by following basic pet care safety measures, the majority of these accidents could have been prevented.




The simplest pet car safety approach would be to leave all your pets home in the first place!  This is impractical. Many people enjoy taking pets on vacation with them.  If you live a fair piece from an animal hospital a car is definitely needed to take the pet to the veterinarian office.  The easiest approach for tiny dogs and cats is to purchase a pet carrier that has attachments on it that allow it to mesh with the safety belts in the front or back seat.  In principal it is similar to infant car seats.  If you own a cat and need something in a pinch to transport it, use a pillow case.  Put the cat in it, tie it up at the top and put it on the floor board of the vehicle.  Yes, cats and tiny dogs can breathe through the fabric.  They feel protected and safe in the small enclosure.

Pet car safety appliances used in protecting big breeds of dogs takes a bit more work.  The easiest arrangement is if you own a SUV vehicle.  Protective, padded metal grating can be purchased and fixed behind the back seat of the vehicle.  The pet is kept in the far back storage or hatch back area.  I remember one simple equation from high school physics:  F=ma.  The force of anything is equal to the mass of the object multiplied by its acceleration.  A large dog will generate enough force to fly through the windshield of the car and thrown from the vehicle. Smaller dogs due to their smaller masses will suffer head injuries or auricular hematomas if flung from the back seat of a vehicle.

There are also leash or halter arrangements that can be affixed to seat belt equipment.  There are so many devices on the market that it is beyond the scope of this article to write about them all.  What is presented here are the most commonly employed methods of pet car safety.  There are many products available that will fill the need of most pets.  The personality of the animal, not just the size, plays an important role in which product you purchase.  Some tiny dogs may feel protected and secure in a collapsible pet carrier.  That same dog may panic if a halter or leash system is employed for pet car safety.  You learn early on in practice that every animal is an individual, and reacts differently, when even compared to a sibling from the same litter.

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