Car Safety and your Pets

During this season of travel and holiday bliss, we sometimes just need to slow down a bit and make sure we are practicing safety when on the roads.

I am sharing of my favorite Ask Dr. Buckley columns about travel safety. It is inspired by a story of someone in my family who recently experienced a fender-bender that could have been much worse.

When traveling home from work my eldest was in traffic and sitting at a red light, when suddenly she felt a bump… She wasn’t sure what happened until she looked in her rearview mirror and saw the shocked face of a man looking at her. They pulled over and he immediately jumped out an apologized. His dog had jumped into his lap and startled him. This caused him to take his foot off the brake and well….. BUMP.

In this case, all was well, and no one was hurt but this is a lesson to all about what can happen, what has happened, and how you can be more careful in the future when traveling with your pets.

What Dr. Buckley, DVM has to say about pets in cars:

With our pets it is so important to understand that they rely on us for just about everything thing in their life, from food and exercise to taking care of their health needs and their daily safety.  I have treated a long list of pets over the years who were injured due to a poor decision by the owner.  Our pets never mentally develop past a two-year-old human so every precaution we would take for a two-year-old child we need to take for our pets throughout their life.  The number one cause of car accidents is distracted driving.  Our pets riding in the front seat can cause us to become distracted. They may find their way under your feet and block the brake pedal, or onto your lap, blocking the steering wheel.  In our vehicles most pets are not restrained with any type of safety harness. 

If your pet is riding in the front set and you have an accident not only is your pet unrestrained but if the accident causing the airbags to deploy we add another level of potential injury.  Air bags work best for what they were designed to do.  They are designed to help reduce the potential for serious injury to adult humans who are properly positioned and actively restrained in the front seat with a safety belt.  It is even recommended that children under 14 years of age (depending on your state) not ride in the front due to safety concerns associated with airbags.  An airbag is set to activate and inflate within milliseconds.  The force needed to fully inflate an airbag and protect a 200 lb. person is the same force that would happen if your 20 lb. dog was in the front passenger seat.  The potential for injury is great. 

Additionally, airbags are designed to deflate quickly after an accident.  If a window of the car has been damaged and your pet jumps out, they may be doing so on a busy road.  Now they are scared, possibly injured, and may run off or get hit by another vehicle.

Here is your best plan for keeping them safe. 
* Treat them like that two-year-old child. 
* Purchase a harness for your pet that allows you to secure them to the second-row seat safety belt.  Some pets may resist this as they are accustomed to riding in the front seat.  It is your responsibility as a pet owner to ignore their crying and barking until they learn that this is where they will ride. 

Loving them means keeping them safe.  If anything would happen to them which could have been prevented our feeling of loss would be so much greater. 


Please, Keep them safe. Safe travels!

Dr. Glenn Buckley

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