Q: I’m sick of seeing pets running loose in their owners’ cars. Could you please let people know this is dangerous?
A: It’s one of my pet peeves, too. After all, you’d never let your human children ride in your lap, much less stick their heads out the window, right?
Regrettably, little of the same can be said for the average passenger pet. Few get the same safety devices humans are required by law to wear. Moreover, as you note, many are allowed to run amok in their owners’ vehicles.
It’s a travesty. And it needs to change. Here are the options:
• Harness: For dogs, this is the simplest restraint device available. It’s also the easiest to use for all but the tiniest. Just snap on the harness and pass the attached loop through the seat belt. Get one with a wide breastplate to help distribute the shock of impact.
Note: As for children, the rear passenger seats are always safest. The possibility of airbag deployment assures it.
• Booster: The booster seat looks like an elevated bed that attaches to your vehicle’s front seat. This is an option only for small breed dogs. Note: A harness must still be worn with this type of restraining device. Make no mistake, tiny dogs will fly into the windshield without one. Luckily, airbags are less of a hazard given the sturdiness of most booster seat frames.
• Carrier strap: Just because your pet is in a carrier doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. Making sure the carrier is strapped in is essential. Some carriers offer this option with a larger loop on top (or side) that you can pass the seatbelt through.
• Divider: Got the really big ones in the back of your SUV? Protect them and yourself by employing one of those nifty vehicle dividers. Though your pets might still get tossed about, their projectile potential is significantly diminished this way.
• Crate: The large, sturdy crate you’ve shoehorned into your car is unlikely to fly about in an accident and will serve as a restraint, too. Small crates don’t fare as well. Treat these like carriers.
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.