National Pet Month: Car Safety

In light of it being National Pet Month, we’d like to discuss dog car safety. Pets are like children for many of us, but often we don’t think to protect them in the same ways. The laws pertaining to transporting dogs are nowhere near as strict, either—it falls on us as individuals to use our best judgment. Following are some ways that you can—and should—protect your pets when traveling with them.

Secure Your Pet

It may feel like a fun bonding experience to drive with your pup on your lap, but it’s actually illegal to do so in a couple states and can lead to prosecution in almost all the others if your driving is compromised even just a little bit. If your pup steps in the wrong spot while you’re driving, you’ll be hard pressed not to react, potentially leading to a fender bender or worse. In the unfortunate event of a car accident, the last thing that you want is for your pooch to be thrown against — or even out of — your vehicle. The following pet car restraints can help keep the family dog secure—in its own seat!

Seat Belt Extender

Since cars’ safety belts aren’t really made for dogs, you can’t just buckle them in without some sort of adapter. Luckily, dog seat belt extenders exist, and you can get one at most pet stores. Different models will attach in a variety of ways—they can be buckled into a receptacle, looped around a fastened belt, or even tethered to a line hung from the hanger hooks on each side of the backseat.

Car Harnesses

In combination with the belt extension, using a dog harness for car rides will spread out forces during a crash. If you only hook up the restraint to your canine’s collar, the likelihood of a neck injury increases. In fact, just one instance of hard braking can cause irreparable damage to your dog’s spine.

Booster Car Seats

For small breeds, such as Yorkies and Chihuahuas, dog car seats make for a great option. These devices tend to look like a little playpen or basket with a leash that snaps onto your dog’s collar or walking harness to keep him inside. Some of these dog booster seats, which usually strap onto a headrest and/or around the middle of a seat, can also be zipped at the top and used as pet carriers, making them extra convenient for frequent travelers.

Barriers and Crates

If Duke is more of a window dog, you may consider using a dog barrier for cars, which consists of a net or mesh that divides between the back and front seats. On the other hand, a dog travel crate could be your best option for a pet who’s fearful or anxious during car rides. However, neither of these options will provide as much security in a car crash as those listed above—especially if the dog’s head is sticking out the window at that time in the case of the barrier.

Don’t Leave Dogs in Hot Cars

A convertible may be the one and only exception. Otherwise, never ever leave a dog inside a car unattended.

The question of ‘How long does it take to kill a dog in a hot car?’ shouldn’t even have to be asked. But since it’s asked all too often, let’s address it. If you’re sweating in your car without the AC on, your dog will fare much worse because he can’t perspire like a human.

In less than 2 minutes, a car’s temperature can go from safe to dangerous according to the National Weather Service.

This table from the American Veterinary Medical Association shows how quickly the interior of a car become dangerously hot:

Estimated Vehicle Interior Air Temperature v. Elapsed Time
Elapsed time Outside Air Temperature (F)
70 75 80 85 90 95
0 minutes 70 75 80 85 90 95
10 minutes 89 94 99 104 109 114
20 minutes 99 104 109 114 119 124
30 minutes 104 109 114 119 124 129
40 minutes 108 113 118 123 128 133
50 minutes 111 116 121 126 131 136
60 minutes 113 118 123 128 133 138
> 1 hour 115 120 125 130 135 140

Because of how fast car temps can rise and how unpredictable weather can be, you should never leave your pet in a parked car — for any period of time. In many states, it’s illegal to do so. A law here in Ohio goes so far as to allow bystanders to break into an unintended car to rescue a child or pet.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund has a detailed overview of state laws regarding leaving unattended animals in vehicles.

Bonding with your dog is certainly important, and if you lead a busy life, spending time on the road together may be a great option. We just hope that we’ve given you some ideas on how to travel with your pet that will keep you both safe out there.