When the fall and winter months approach, many owners don’t think twice about transporting their pets to their holiday destination – but the vast majority of owners travel with these pets unrestrained, and, unfortunately, many people don’t realize what a serious distraction a loose pet can be.
Dogs sitting in the front seat are at risk of fatal injury from an airbag that can be deployed in even a minor collision; likewise, these pets are at risk of flying through the windshield in case of more serious accidents. In the backseat, they can be thrown like a projectile with enough force to seriously injure other passengers, including small children most susceptible to serious injury.
An unrestrained pet can continue to be a problem if emergency crews are required in an accident. An unsecured animal could run from the scene into oncoming traffic, putting itself in danger of being hit or of causing another accident. The animal could also create a situation where they pose a threat to a firefighter or paramedic or prevent them from being able to get to passengers safely.
James R. Speiser, DVM, is the founder of IndyVet, a 24-hour specialty practice comprised of emergency, internal medicine, surgery, ophthalmology and rehabilitation services. Speiser said he’s seen such cases over his 37 years of practice.
“Our team of emergency doctors has seen animals who have been injured while traveling in vehicles that have been involved in accidents,” he said. “As more people travel to pet friendly places, having pets secured in the vehicle increases the safety factor for both the driver and all the passengers.”
As a result, more states are putting legal pressure on drivers to abide by pet restraint laws where they apply. In Arizona, Connecticut and Maine, distracted driving laws can be used to charge drivers with pets on their laps. The state of Hawaii explicitly forbids drivers from holding pets on their laps, and in New Jersey, officers with the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NJSPCA) can stop drivers they suspect are improperly transporting animals, with tickets for the offense ranging from $250 to $1000. A driver can also face a disorderly person’s offense under animal cruelty laws. In Rhode Island, proposed legislation would make a dog in a driver’s lap a distracted driving violation.
Fortunately, there are solutions to the dilemma of pet transportation. There are a number of products available that keep pets safe while traveling. One such product is the Fido Pet Product’s patented FidoRido, a 3-in-1 booster seat and restraint system that can also be used as a pet bed and bath tub for dogs up to 30 lbs. It installs easily using the car's seat belt, and the two-strap restraint system, when used with the harness provided, equalizes the pressure of a sudden stop. It provides lots of room and pet comfort, and even when restrained, dogs can sit, stand and lie down.
Sleepypod carries a full line of pet carriers and safety harnesses, and the company’s Clickit Utility models are designed specifically to keep dogs in their seats at all times, even in an accident.
Finally, Ruffwear’s Load Up harnesses are designed to safely transport dogs. Built with strength-rated hardware and components, the harness has been successfully tested to withstand the rigors of a vehicle crash test. It attaches to existing seatbelts for a universal fit and keeps dogs secure during sudden vehicle movements and allows drivers to focus.
As always, when securing pets, remember to buckle up the entire family when traveling this holiday season.