Increasing Pet Safety

One of the best ways to keep pets safe in a moving vehicle? A comfortable restraint

Posted: Jul 31, 2020

If you’re a pet owner, no doubt the joy of excursions with your furry family member is something you’re looking forward to. And with millions of other drivers also ready to rejoin the roads in the months ahead, this is a great time to carefully consider your pet’s road-traveling safety.

According to one AAA study, only about 16 percent of people who transport their dogs use safety restraints, which is a major factor in annual pet-related auto injuries. As a result, The Humane Society, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and other leading animal-care organizations vehemently agree that an unrestrained pet traveling in a moving vehicle is an animal in danger.

Consider this: one study found that if a car crashes at a speed of just 25 mph—the relatively low speed of a residential neighborhood—an unrestrained dog can be projected forward at a force equal to 40 times its weight. A dog weighing 75 pounds, for example, can achieve an impact force of 3,000 pounds in a car crash, which is a potentially deadly blow for the animal. Smaller pets are also in danger when unrestrained. According to AAA, at just 30 miles per hour, a 10-pound dog can exert 300 pounds of pressure in an accident.

Plus, veterinarians know that thousands of unrestrained dogs are also injured each year after accidentally falling out of open car windows or by getting hit by objects while hanging their heads outside moving vehicles.

And then there are the other dangers of free-roaming animals to both themselves and their drivers. Insurance companies report that smaller animals accidentally falling into footwells are a cause of driver-distracted injuries (interfering with acceleration and braking), and larger animals accidentally impairing a driver’s field of vision are also a cause of pet-related automotive collisions.

According to the Humane Society, the safest way for a pet to travel in a car is in a pet crate that has been anchored to the vehicle using a seat belt or other secure means. Furthermore, the Center for Pet Safety—an independent, non-profit pet safety research organization—recommends that carriers always be strapped to the middle of the backseat, citing that the force of a front airbag deployment can harm a pet in a carrier.

A challenge for pet owners interested in crash-certified crate/carrier systems, reports the Center for Pet Safety, is that pet carriers and other restraint systems don’t currently require certification standards for automotive product testing. Pet owners should, therefore, be aware that even though a carrier or a harness may be claimed to be crash tested, it still may not be reliable during collisions.

With this in mind, the Center for Pet Safety performed formal simulated collision tests a few years ago, examining a wide variety of leading carrier and restraint products. The collision examiners found that only a handful of products passed the study’s high safety standards; these can be found here.

By Brian Gill