By Ann Hohenhaus, DVM
Go Dog Go! is a 1961 children’s book about dogs who drive cars to a dog party. While this is a fanciful children’s book and we all know dogs can’t drive, according to a New York Times article, 90% of pet owners claim they travel with their pets, and dogs in cars are reality, not fantasy.
As part of the 2012 New York International Auto Show at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City, GM/Chevrolet and my friend, international pet lifestyle expert Charlotte Reed, hosted National Pet Day with car buying and travel safety tips for pets. Chevrolet has recently been recognized by Bark Buckle UP, the go-to expert and research team on pet travel safety.
Safety restraints are not just for your pet’s safety
Pets should be restrained while you drive so you focus on the road and not on their antics in the passenger seat. It is a fact that distracted drivers are more likely to be involved in automobile accidents. In a crash, an unrestrained pet becomes a projectile which can inflict severe injury on itself or the human occupant(s) of the vehicle. Using a harness like the Tru-Fit Smart Harness I saw at the car show, rather than a collar for restraint, helps to distribute the force of impact over the entire chest instead of the neck. The Tru-Fit Smart Harness attaches to any seat belt via an integral loop.
If your dog always occupies the same seat for each car ride, you might want to consider a restraint device which takes advantage of the LATCH (lower anchor and tether for children) system such as the Pet Buckle Harness.
The LATCH has been installed in all cars manufactured over the past ten years and has two hard connection points mounted into the frame of the vehicle. It is typically used for attaching a child safety seat. When you attach the pet restraint device to this system, the seat belt can still be used by the human passengers, and unlike devices that attach to the seat belt, there is no slack, keeping your dog safely in the back seat.
Another nifty device I saw at the Auto Show was the “To Go Bowl.” This lidded bowl has a short, wide, detachable stem designed to fit into the cup holders in your car’s armrest or center console. The lid controls spills and when the stem is removed, the bowl sits flat on the ground or the floor of your hotel room. The stem functions as a treat or dry food holder. Please remember, even if your pet has a bowl of water, never leave your pet in a closed car, as the danger of heatstroke is real.
For additional information on traveling with your pet, consider getting a copy of the American Automobile Association’s book Traveling with Your Pet, available through AAA, Barnes & Noble, or for e-readers and tablets at online stores.
The ASPCA has tips specific to car travel with pets available on their website.