Of the many words that excite our pets, “car ride” are two that send our dogs into a frenzy. While everyone knows how to keep humans safe in the car, there aren’t nearly as many studies on how to keep our furry friends safe.

Why Should I Restrain My Pet?

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), keeping your small dog on your lap can be very distracting to you and other drivers on the road. This increases the likelihood of your being involved in an accident. While Maryland law does not specifically prohibit driving with your dog on your lap, it does state that you may not drive with your view obstructed and must be able to fully operate your vehicle.

Volvo Car USA completed a study on driving with a dog unrestrained. The study shows that having a pet unrestrained in the car increased distractions to the driver and also increased stress to the animal and driver. Unrestrained dogs more than doubled unsafe driving behaviors and the amount of time that drivers were distracted. It also found that heart rates were likely to increase in both the people and pets while traveling in the vehicle.

Bark Buckle Up (https://barkbuckleup.blogspot.com/p/be-smart-ride-safe.html) states that “if an accident occurs while the car is moving at 35 mph, an unrestrained, 60-pound dog is capable of causing an impact of up to 2,700 pounds. If the unrestrained pet survives the crash, he may impede or slow the progress of rescue workers, as they need to tend to the animal and the human victims.”

Can I Keep My Pet in a Truck Bed?

American Humane strongly recommends against transporting pets in open truck beds. Open truck beds don’t provide any protection from the weather. The bed can become hot when in the sun burning paw pads and causing heat stroke. Animals may jump out of the bed, even when leashed to the truck. They may also be bumped out of the back and if leashed could be left dangling from the vehicle. If you absolutely have to put your pet in a truck bed, you should keep it in a crate that provides protection from the weather. Be sure to secure the crate to the walls of the bed to keep it from sliding or being tossed around.

How Do I Restrain My Pet in My Car?

  • Harness – Harness seatbelts attach to your car’s existing seatbelt to keep your dog in place and from falling off the seat in the event of an accident or sudden stop. If your dog weighs over 90 lbs., you may want to look for other options as these systems are only rated for dogs 90 lbs. and under. If your dog is larger or tends to wander around in the back, you may want to look into an auto zipline which controls your pup but allows more freedom to wander the back. Popular Mechanics did some research and found some of the best harnesses and tethers to keep your pet safe.
  • Carrier and Crate – Crates provide a comfortable place for pets when riding in the car- especially when they’re afraid of car rides! Your pet will stay contained so they don’t wander around your vehicle while having the safety of a cave-like hiding place. If you are transporting your pet in a crate, please keep them as close to the center of the car as possible for safety. There are even ones specifically built for the car that are crash-tested to keep your pet safe in the event of an accident.
  • Car Seat – Pet carriers, or pet car seats, are buckled to the seat to keep smaller dogs (20 lbs. or less) contained in their own space. There is usually a harness that you attach to your dog that acts like the harness seatbelt to keep your dog safe. Some may even hang on the back of the seat so your dog gets a first-class view out of the window.
  • Barrier – While some pets stay in the cargo area no matter what, if your dog likes to jump over seats, you may want to consider a cargo area barrier. This keeps your pet in the back to avoid distractions to the driver and are typically made of netting or metal bars. If you install these yourself, be sure that they are installed correctly and are secure.
    NBC News compiled a list of some of their favorite crash-tested harnesses, crates and carriers here. (https://www.nbcnews.com/select/shopping/safe-car-travel-dogs-ncna1275708)

Keep an Eye on the Weather

Just like leaving children unattended in a hot car is dangerous (and illegal), it is also hazardous for your furry family member. According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, it’s even more dangerous for animals because they do not have sweat glands like humans, leaving them extremely vulnerable to heatstroke. The American Veterinary Medical Association found that your car temperature can reach 89 degrees in only 10 minutes of sitting in the sun on a 70-degree day. In Maryland, it is illegal to leave your pet in your vehicle in a way that endangers the animal. Law enforcement and other safety officers are authorized to use reasonable force to remove your pet from your vehicle. This means that you could suffer damages to your car and also have to pay a fine on top of the cost to repair the damages.

Other Car-Related Items to Keep Your Pet Comfortable

Some additional items that are not necessary, but nice to have on hand are:

  • Seat Covers – As much as we love transporting our furry friends, they sure can cause a mess! While there isn’t a lot you can do to protect your windows from nose prints, seat covers and dog hammocks can protect your seats from dog hair, dirt, and scratches. The best part is that when they get dirty, you can throw them in the washer!
  • Water BowlPetMD says that dogs need an ounce of water per pound of weight each day. Hot weather or exercise may prompt your dog to drink even more. Bringing a water bowl and some fresh water for your pup will make them more comfortable and enjoy the car ride even more.
  • Ramp – As your dog gets older, it gets harder for them to jump into the back of the car. If your dog is too heavy for you to lift, a ramp makes the process of going on a car ride that much easier!

For some other items that can make traveling with your pet easier, check out this article from Consumer Reports.

Whether you’re going to the park, vet, or to visit someone, we hope that you and your pet make it to your destination safely. If you are looking for pet-friendly destinations, check out Bring Fido.

  • Uncategorized