A little safety advice for the upcoming Labor Day weekend, from your friendly veterinarian…
Ever since I was a little kid, the phrase “buckle up!” was drilled into me to the point where I would click that buckle in place without even realizing I had done it. For human occupants, 32 states have seat belt laws in which it is a primary offense (i.e. you can get pulled over for that alone).
If you consider it logically, why is it reasonable that we buckle ourselves and our children but let our animals run amok while we careen down the 101? I am definitely a chronic offender, but largely because I’d never really stopped to consider the ramifications of a loose animal in a car crash. Not only are my dogs at risk for bodily injury when they become a projectile if the car suddenly hits something, but if that animal flies through the air and hits one of my passengers, that could be a serious additional injury!
Additionally, dogs are a distraction, whether they’re in your face while you’re trying to read or eat or use the restroom, they distract you. We already allow ourselves too many distractions while driving and pets can certainly add to that. According to a AAA study in 2010, 17% of pet owners admit to allowing their animals to sit on their laps while driving and more than 50% engage in distracting behaviors such as petting their dogs, giving treats and even taking pictures (of those flapping jowls)! The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that looking away from the road for only two seconds doubles your risk of being in a crash.
There are eight states (California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington) that require drivers to restrain their dogs when in an open area (like a truck bed), but no laws currently exist for inside of cars or trucks. In a lot of cases, I think we just don’t consider the potential harm that can be done by an unrestrained animal in a wreck situation.
Speaking of injuries, obviously your dog could be harmed in an accident, just like you. But have we stopped to think about potential injuries for the drool faces that are hanging out the car window? Nothing makes me smile more than seeing a big dog face, tongue lolling with a big doggie smile, flapping in the breeze. That being said, I don’t think its the best option for our friends. Those rocks that hit our windshields can just as easily hit our dog, not to mention a close passing cars mirrors or even a mailbox! I know they love the wind in their jowls but, if we’re talking safety, its better that they aren’t hanging out of the car.
I encourage you to go above and beyond the laws for the sake of your animals and your family and properly restrain Fluffy and Fido with a secured kennel or a safety harness while driving with your beloved friends.