Car Safety for Presidential Dogs (and Yours)

The safest way for your dog to travel in a car (hint: it's not on the roof).

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA,
February 1, 2012

Democrat, Republican, or independent, I'm sure you know that the safest place for your dog when traveling is not the roof of the car. And, independent, Republican, or Democrat, I hope you know what's wrong with the famous picture David Axelrod tweeted, of Bo Obama riding in the back of the presidential limousine.

Everybody, repeat after me: "MR. PRESIDENT! GET THAT DOG IN A SAFETY HARNESS, NOW!"

Just like a child, an unsecured dog turns into a projectile during a sudden stop or if your car is struck. Even if your dog is alive or miraculously unhurt after banging around the inside of the car like a cannonball, she may panic and run away. I know a woman whose car went into a ditch with her three dogs riding loose; two were killed outright, and the third bolted and disappeared forever. Another friend -- and she's a dog trainer! -- was T-boned with her dogs riding loose. One dog was trapped in the crushed car with her, which was probably for the best since that got her to the vet faster; the other one was only found roaming, hurt and hungry, a week later.

What about a crate? It may not be the best alternative.

For an article about safe car travel for dogs, I scoured the Internet looking for evidence of how well crates and harnesses protect our friends. My search turned up no reliable, objective evidence. I did find videos of conventional plastic travel crates exploding at fairly low-speed impacts. These were made by a safety harness manufacturer, so perhaps they should be taken with a grain of salt.

Still, I was left believing that most car-traveling dogs are probably safest in a harness made of seatbelt material, with high-impact closures and broad padding across the chest. Certainly not riding loose in the back seat with a leash and collar around the neck. Somebody tell Mr. Obama, please.

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