Many dog owners are inseparable from their dogs and they are taking their paw buddy wherever possible. Very often this involves a trip with a car. No matter if this is a short or a longer drive, it is important to keep your dog safe, just as you would any other passenger.
For some time now stores are promoting dog seat belts and other measures to make your dog safer. This however raises some questions:
Are dog seat belts really safe and effective? Are they required by law?
Are dog seat belts required by law?
Although there are no nation-wide standards in US that regulate pet seat belts yet, mandatory pet seatbelt laws are already in place in some states and can soon become a wider standard. Currently, only eight states have a law that states that your dog must wear a canine-specific harness when in a vehicle and these are Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.
Dog seatbelt is a safety measure not only for the dog, but for the driver as well. Dogs and other pets which are not restrained while driving can distract the driver and cause danger. Laws protecting from such situations are enforced for example in UK, according to UK’s Highway Code: "When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves if you stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars."
What’s more, even though car insurance policies may not specifically mention animals or pets in cars, not securing your pet can be a basis for rejecting your insurance claim if you do have an accident.
This alone should convince you to use them.
Are dog seat belts really safe?
We know already that dog seat belts are safe for you as a driver and also they can help you avoid some unpredicted behaviour or panic of your dog when you make a sudden stop or run into a bump in the road. But what about your dog’s safety, are seat belts really the way to protect your dog in case of an accident?
According to a study published by Center for Pet Safety dog seat belts can improve you dog’s safety but only with a proper safety harness. A single seatbelt connected to a random harness will not do the trick. Yes, it will limit the dog’s movement and allow you to avoid a fine but to properly secure your puppy the harness should be a full-body harness or have more than one connection point and it’s best if it is connected to a seatbelt in more than one place. This will help to avoid dog’s rotation in case of an accident and will not put all the pressure in one point of the harness.
Dog seat belts with a full-body harness are a good way to protect large and medium dogs, but for smaller dogs and puppies dog car seats are the smarter choice.
DOG CAR SEATS
Dog car seats tend to work best for small dogs under 30 pounds. They allow your dog to see out the window, they are comfortable, and your dog can stand, curl up or snooze without any inconvenience. However, while these attach to the car, many of them don’t include a way to secure your dog. The recommended ones have a dog car harness built in or a way to tether the dog by the car seatbelt. Be sure to check this before you decide to buy one.
OTHER SAFETY TIPS
- Don’t drive with a dog on your lap
Although at lot of people does it, it’s not a very good idea. This is not safe for both you and your dog. And since this is a distraction to the driver you can get a fine for this as well.
- Don’t drive with a dog in a front seat
It is acceptable to have your dog in the front seat as long as they are properly restrained, and your car does not have a passenger-side airbag (this could cause a lot of harm in case of an accident). However, it is recommended for the dog be in the back seat, properly secured with dog seat or full-body harness with a seatbelt.
- Don’t leave your dog in the car
Even on a day with a mild weather with around 72 degrees, your car's internal temperature can rise over 40 degrees in under an hour. Cracking the windows is not the solution. Just take your dog with you, it’s not worth the risk.