According to the American Automobile Association, 30.9 million Americans will drive to their vacation destinations this summer. Sixty-one percent of pet owners take their pets on vacation. If you do the math, that equals nearly 19 million car-traveling pets. No wonder pet seat belts for dogs were the topic of a recent article in the Wall Street Journal.
Proper restraint of your pet while riding the in the car is an important safety consideration for both you and your pet. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) lists unrestrained pets as a driving distraction. Proper restraint keeps your mind focused on the road, keeps the pet from becoming an injury-causing projectile or from becoming injured in the case of an accident. Keeping your pet restrained while you are traveling also keeps your pet inside the car when you roll down the windows to pay a toll or ask for directions.
If you travel in the car with your cat, a carrier will keep your cat from roaming about, distracting you from driving. You should put a seat belt though the handle or straps to keep the carrier immobile during an accident. The cat carrier will only keep your cat safe if you can get the cat into the carrier. The minute a cat spies the carrier coming up from the basement or out of the closet they make a beeline underneath the middle of your king-sized bed. Once you flush them out of their hiding place, the most placid pussy cat becomes a man-eating lion. The folks at the Catalyst Council Channel on YouTube offer several videos to help cat owners train their cat to like getting into its carrier and traveling in the car.
When you buy a car or a child safety seat, you rely on data from crash tests to evaluate the quality of the product you intend to buy. The NHTSA website does not have information about pet restraint systems and I could not find any guidelines for evaluation of pet safety restraints. IMMI designs, tests and manufacturers vehicle safety systems. Their dog product is manufactured using seatbelt materials and they have video showing how it functions during crash testing using a doggie crash test dummy.
Since there appears not to be criteria for pet seat belts, here is what I would look for:
- Device has metal hooks, latches and loops Plastic will not be strong enough if you and your pet are in an accident.
- Device attaches to the car’s seat belt or the child safety restraint anchor located in the junction between the back and seat cushions. A device that attaches to the hooks for hanging clothes is not strong enough to hold up during a crash.
- Device fits your pet — not too tight and not too loose. Most systems I looked at online came in various sizes.
- Device keeps your pet in the back seat where they are safer.
Additional car travel resources include:
- The American Automobile Association offers tips, product reviews and a pet travel book to its members.
- Bark BuckleUp offers a free pet safety kit on their website to serve as a reminder to first responders about a possible pet in your car.
Click here for additional information about driving with pets.
This may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog on WebMD.com.
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