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Pets And Car Safety

There are almost 200 million dogs and cats as pets in the United States, and of course those pets sometimes have to travel with us. They may be going with us a mile down the road to the grocery store or 3,000 miles across country. Sometimes however people forget about the need for pet automotive safety and procedures.

How many times have you driven down the highway seeing a dog wagging his tongue out the window and thinking, “Ohh, that’s so cute!!!” never realizing how unsafe the situation is for the driver and the pet. Animals need proper restraints just like people do. There are many different kinds of pets people keep these days, but this will focus on cats and dogs and smaller animals. An animal can be thrown from a car in accident just as easily as a human, if not easier due to their smaller size. Even in situations where a car must stop short, an animal has no means to brace itself when not secure. Small dogs and cats, and other smaller mammals should be secured in pet carriers. There are pet carriers designed that can be attached to a seatbelt restraint system. For larger animals that cannot fit in a standard pet carrier there are seat belt extensions. An easy online search “seat belts for dogs” shows dozens of hits for dog harness restraint systems. This isn’t just a safety issue for the animal. An excited pet could wreak havoc on a driver. A nervous or excited pet could jump on any part of the driver’s body, causing them to lose control of the vehicle and possibly resulting in an accident.     

Pets and vehicles aren’t just a concern when in motion, there are other issues related to pets in cars. Many people leave their pets when going to a store, a restaurant, or many other places that pets aren’t allowed. It isn’t just a climate control issue. Many pets are fearful of strangers, from a Chihuahua to a Pit Bull. Any dog bite can be serious, requiring stitches or shots. An unsecured dog waiting for its owner in a parking lot could see a passing pedestrian as a threat and attempt to attack that person. When climate is not an issue, and the animal is left in the car, they should still be secured in their harness or pet carrier. Anyone who has gotten into a car on a sunny day knows it’s much hotter and more difficult to breath than on the outside. A car parked in the sun even with the windows open slightly can go from 80 to over 100 degrees in a matter of minutes, with poor air quality in top of it. Even on relatively cooler days say at 70, the interior of a car can still reach close to 100 degrees when parked in the sun.

An easy rule of thumb is to treat your pets like people when traveling; of course I think they can be trusted when left alone in a car not to attach strangers. On a serious note though, secure pets appropriately, people are secured appropriately, realize heat is bad for pets as it is for people, in some cases even much worse.