Wanna Go for a Ride?

Dogs, cars and driving safety

You see it all the time: the person driving merrily down the road with their little doggy sitting in their lap, head hanging out the window. Cute, right? Now imagine the same dog suddenly seeing something interesting enough outside the vehicle to cause her to leap right out the window of the moving car! I have seen this scenario unfold in front of me first hand in traffic, and let me tell you, it was a horrifying thing to watch! Fortunately the little dog was leashed and didn’t hit the ground (poor thing instead was HANGING out the window by her neck, with the panicked driver yanking her right back inside …by the leash… while somehow keeping control and not crashing her car!). I was left sitting in my car with my jaw in my lap as she drove away. Although this ended well (if you could call it that) , it could have been a whole lot worse for the dog. If she wasn’t injured or killed in the fall, she could have run off and gotten lost.

Dogs riding in drivers’ laps can also be a major distraction, causing accidents. And if there is an accident, the unsecured dog suddenly becomes a projectile. That which is in motion stays in motion… until it hits something. Injured dog, injured driver, possibly even injured third person. As quoted in the article “Traveling Safety and Lawfully with your Dog” on the MSPCA Angell website, “A slam on the brakes at 30 mph means a 50 pound dog could lunge forward with a force equivalent to being pushed by almost nine 170 pound men, safety researchers have calculated.” In some states, such as Massachusetts, it is unlawful for the operator of a motor vehicle to allow anything in the vehicle that “may interfere with or impede the proper operation of the vehicle…” (Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90 Section 13).

This can be even more amplified in the case of a dog traveling in the bed of a pickup or open bed truck. Any quick stops and the dog can be injured losing his footing and slipping, being slammed against the side of the truck, or even thrown out of the vehicle into the road. Many states have laws against having dogs traveling in the back of an open vehicle without proper safety restraints. No matter how well trained your dog is and you believe he would NEVER jump out, he can’t break the laws of gravity or physics in the case of quick stops or accidents.

Another very popular and endearing scene is the happy dog riding in the car with his head hanging out the window, ears and tongue flying in the breeze. This is great fun for your dog, but can be a hazard too. Debris can hit your dog’s eyes or ears and cause injuries, and some dogs hang so far out the window that they can easily lose their balance and fall out. Most cars today also have automatic window buttons. If the dog steps on the button, the window could automatically close on his neck!

Rides in vehicles should be fun and safe for you and your dog. If you want to take your dog with you, follow simple safety tips. Keep your dog secured with a pet barrier or carrier in the back seat or wayback, or purchase a proper pet seatbelt. If you absolutely don’t have any safety gear and must transport your dog, a good tip is to put the dog into the back seat and close the end of the leash in the door. This helps restrain her to stay in the back seat and not try to run around or climb into the front of the vehicle, and when it’s time to let her out, you can grab end of the leash as you open the door if she’s prone to running off. If you must transport your dog in an open bed, cross tether or contain in a securely fastened carrier or cage.

Happy driving!

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