Pet Safety in the Vehicle

We see it every year. The dog/dogs running around the box of the truck unsecured, dogs with their head sticking out of the car window, the cat laying in the back window, pets sitting on the drivers lap. What’s wrong with that you ask? It is a very dangerous situation. 

Here are some scenarios I have seen/heard in my years in the field due to the above.

  1. The driver of the truck slams on his brakes and the dog is catapulted into traffic. Or, the dog sees another dog, cat or squirrel and goes after them. Dogs do not have the ability to understand that they will be hurt if they jump out of a moving vehicle.
  2. The dog has his head out the window enjoying the breeze and you hear him scream. He loses an eye due to a rock thrown from the highway or a bug hits him or he jumped out because he saw something that grabbed his interest.
  3. The dog/cat in the back window becomes a projectile in the car during an accident and causes life threatening injuries to passengers in the vehicle (broken neck). The pet does not survive.
  4. Fido is in your lap while you drive with his head out of the window. A car cuts you off and you must take evasive action. Slam on the brakes and swerve. Fido falls out of the window and is hit by an oncoming car.
  5. Fido/Fluffy is comfortably sitting in your lap when the car in front of you rear ends another car. You must slam on your brakes and can’t stop in time so you hit him from behind. Your airbag is deployed. The injuries to both you and Fido are serious.
  6. Fido/Fluffy is in the back seat sleeping and you’re involved in a bad accident and are injured. EMS arrives on scene to help. EMS will NOT make sure Fido is ok. Their mandate is to help all persons not pets. They also do not have time. Your dog is now panicked from the accident and looking to get away. EMS/police open the door and Fido is running. Four things will happen at this point.
    • Fido/Fluffy is hit by oncoming traffic.
    • Fido/Fluffy is stolen by a passerby (yes, I have seen this!).
    • Fido/Fluffy runs off and cannot be found.
    • If you’re lucky someone catches the dog or cat and keeps them safe until help arrives for them. Unfortunately, I have rarely heard of #4 happening.

These may seem harsh but unfortunately this does happen. No-one expects to get in an accident and least of all, expects the pet to be injured on a trip out of town or to the store. There are many precautions that can be taken to prevent or lessen the chance of an injury to your pet while travelling.

First of all, your dog should never ever be in the box of the truck. Your pet does not have the ability to hang on nor does he understand/reason that if he jumps out to chase a cat, dog, squirrel at 80 km./hr. that he will get hurt.

There is no way your pet can hold on or brace if you suddenly swerve, brake or are involved in a collision. The best case scenario is to have the dog in the truck with you but there are times that this cannot be done. How do you protect him?

There are a couple of ways to keep him safer while travelling.

  • Attach a kennel to the floor/box of the truck directly behind the cab so it cannot move around. In the case of a wire crate kennel, make sure that the top of the kennel is covered to protect him from the sun, rain etc.
  • Another way, although not as safe, is to secure your pet with a harness in the centre of the box directly behind the cab. Never secure them using the collar! If the dog gets thrown around, he could end up with a broken neck. He should be secured using 2 tie downs, one on each side of a chest harness. This will protect your pet from trying to jump over the side and should you be in an accident, he will remain in the box of the vehicle. Please note that this is not the safest way to secure him but if it’s all you’ve got at the time, it’s better than nothing.
  • Next is the pet running around inside the vehicle. Like children, pets should be secured safely. A good rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t allow your children to do it, don’t let your pets. Pets should never be in the front seat always the back.
  • Cats and small dogs should be in carriers and larger dogs should be in a harness attached with a seat belt. The cat or dog in the carrier – the carrier should also be attached with the seat belt. To do this, forward face the carrier in the back seat (front seats are not safe due to air bags, pet distracting the driver, etc.) Run the seat belt through the top handle of the carrier and secure it. Now if you have to suddenly slam on the brakes or lose control, your pet will be safely contained in the carrier exactly where you left him. For larger breeds that don’t fit in a carrier a seat belt harness is a good bet. While you can contain them in the back of a SUV with a guard between the back and front of the vehicle, he will still get thrown in the case of a sudden collision. In this case, a properly sized crate secured in the back is a good idea or a harness with attached leash secured to the floor or side of the vehicle. Most SUV’s have some kind of tie down in the rear compartment.

Our pets have become very important members of our families – they are family! It is our job to keep them safe. Although nothing is 100% preventable, we must do the best we can to protect everyone in the vehicle from harm. This should never be optional. Our pets may not like being in a crate or secured but I’d rather listen to my pets whining than hear the piercing screams of them hurt because I didn’t take the proper precautions. I have taken too many deceased pets from the hands of a police officer when it could have been prevented.

For more pet travel safety tips, you can read this article from North Ontario Travel.

Please, travel safe!

Sue Kari