Travelling in cars safely with pets

Most car drivers are aware of the risk of carrying passengers who don’t wear seatbelts. Graphic TV adverts have effectively sent out the message that a human body can act like a battering ram when moving about in an unrestrained way during a road accident. But a remarkably high proportion of drivers fail to appreciate that this same principle applies to pets too.

Experts say an unrestrained dog — whether curled up on a lap, hanging out the window or resting its paws on the
steering wheel — can be deadly. As well as the risk of a pet’s body being transformed into a cannonball-like missile during an accident, tens of thousands of car accidents are believed to be caused every year by unrestrained pets. Such animals can interfere with a driver’s focus on driving, and they can also cause physical interference, such as getting tangled in the steering wheel or the driving pedals. It may seem cute to have a small dog with its paws on the wheel, but it’s dangerous.

The issue is drawing attention in some US states e.g.  Hawaii forbids drivers from operating a vehicle with a pet on their lap but in most countries, there are no specific laws. However, a recent poll by the AA found that 20% of drivers take no action at all to restrain their pets.

What should you do?

The right answer is to use a harness or carrier and secure pets in the middle of the back seat, Alternatively, in estate or hatchback cars, pets can be safely secured in the open boot area. Whatever is done, owners need to take steps to keep dogs from interfering with the driver, and from getting hurt or bouncing around and hurting humans in the car in the event of a crash.

A second aspect of road safety and pets is the issue of visibility of dogs being walked. High visibility reflecting clothing and collars can prevent serious accidents: if a pet is seen at the edge of the road, a driver is able to take suitable preventive action.

There are a range of items that help with pet safety on the road.

Pet restraints for the car

  • Metal grid to separate cargo area from rear seat in an estate car – cost around €50.00
  • Gulliver transporter – plastic dog carrier box, also suitable for airline travel – €99.99
  • Savic Dog Crate – metal dog cage that can be folded down: €89.99
  • Karlie Car Harness – to clip onto a human seatbelt – €14.99
  • Doxlock harness – a more elaborate type of body harness for a dog €34.99

High visibility pet accessories

  • ANI LED collar €12.99
  • Flecta Hi-Vis jacket €39.99
  • Karlie Star Light Collar (fits over normal collar) – €12.99

All of the above items are available at Maxi Zoo pet shops around the country ( , and similar products are sold in pet shops everywhere.

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Please note that I am unable to answer veterinary questions in comments. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health it is always better to contact your vet.

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