Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sometimes it is about the Destination

When you and the family head out in the ol' sedan, do you make sure everyone is securely strapped in, or do you just roll out of the driveway untethered and hope for the best?..."Everyone got their fingers crossed that we don't get side swiped by a texting teen or roll over on that icy road ahead?! Okay let's go!"...
No, you don't do that. You would never take that risk with the lives of loved ones.

It amazes me to think of all the years I'd driven without having my pets properly secured in the vehicle. ...Whoa!... Did you just roll your eyes at me? I hope not. Think about it. Fully aware of the range of injuries that can be sustained in an auto accident, you buckle yourself in because you simply don't know if or when you might be involved in an accident. You obviously care about your pet or he wouldn't be going on car rides/road trips/ vacations with you to begin with, so why wouldn't you want to make sure that, should there be an unfortunate accident, your pet has the best possible chance of coming out unscathed? Sure, my dog would love to be able to continue to roam around the back of our SUV and stick her head out of the window freely and I'd love for her to do that too, it's freakin' adorable, but I'd rather know that we'll all get to our destination safely where she can then do a whole bunch of other things that she enjoys that I will most likely also find freakin' adorable.

Maybe you have kids too though and the thought of taking the time to properly secure yet one more wiggly body is just laughable to you. That's totally understandable, but try explaining that reasoning to your child should the worst happen.

From Dr. Kimberly May, DVM, director of professional and public affairs at the American Veterinary Medical Association in Schaumburg, Illinois, "Even a low-speed crash can cause injury to unrestrained dogs. There are all kinds of prominences inside a car, so depending on what structures they hit, dogs can suffer broken ribs, broken legs or eye injuries. They can hit the windshield or be thrown outside of the car."  ...None of that sounds good and it doesn't even cover what can happen to heads sticking out of windows or dogs riding on laps. You have an imagination, use it.

There are many options for keeping your four-footed family member safe in your vehicle:

Auto Barriers - Mesh, plastic,or metal screens that basically keep your pet confined to the back area of your vehicle. These are not a preferred method as while they do prevent interference with the driver, they do not address a lot of other potential dangers and in a serious accident, they might not be able to contain your pet within the 'secured' area. It may or may not be a 'better than nothing' option.

Crates - Soft or hard sided 'carriers' that contain your pet in one place. A closed, hard sided crate secured in the back of your vehicle is the best option when choosing this restraint method for your travels, but keep in mind that injuries can be sustained inside the crate and even sturdy crates can break apart in high impact accidents.

Harnesses and Seatbelts - Vehicle specific harnesses that are connected to the vehicles existing seatbelt system. This restraint method has tested to be the best option for safe traveling with your pooch. Make sure you use a harness that is specifically intended for travel as they are designed to withstand the impact of an accident and for obvious reasons, never use a neck collar as part of your pet's auto restraint system.

After doing my homework, I opted to go with the harness method and added the extra safety measure (and comfort) provided by a hammock style seat cover that keeps pets from falling off the edge of the seat. I can't say that Zainey was thrilled when we switched from an open crate and free-roam area to the current set-up, but I can say that I was. I'd known for some time that I needed to do the right thing and while she may not have quite the same experience she used to while riding around with us, she still has her favorite aspect which is just going where her people go. ...

Pictured here, Zainey models her Champion Canine Seatbelt with the optional reflective striping (good for safety at night as the harness can be used to walk to and from the car or for walks in general [although I find it a little too bulky for the latter]). The harness is attached to the vehicle's seat belt system using a separate restraint strap and as you can see, all of the buckles and straps on the unit are quite substantial. While I am happy with the product overall, it is a bit bulky for my slender girl and there is a bit of side slipping if it's not super snug (either option; super snug or a little loose, reduces her comfort ever so slightly for different reasons).

(At some point I may want to try the Ruff Rider Roadie harness even though some reviewers say that the newer model requires a little hyper-extending/yoga on the part of the dog to get in and out of the thing.)

Zainey rides on this Duragear Quilted Hammock. It has pockets for her various goodies (including one specific for a water bottle -yea!), it zips down the middle between the two front seats to allow one side to be let down to allow a passenger, it has a zipper to allow the seat belts to be accessed (we only use one, so it can be kept primarily closed to keep fur out), and despite what some reviews say - it does not slide around on the seat (perhaps because we have cloth interior and not leather).

Precious Cargo

Whatever method you choose for traveling with your pet is up to you, the above post is only my opinion, the ramblings of a mad-woman some might say, and the odds are you're all going to arrive wherever your plans take you just fine. I only know that while life might be more about the journey than the destination, I choose to consider the safety of those that I've brought along for the ride.

Read more on this subject:

Edmunds article about dog-safe driving and heat risks
Impartial user review of various travel harnesses and other restraint methods
Canine Auto (travel and safety)

How did she ever end up riding shotgun with me in the back anyway!?


  1. Great post! And of course, very cute photos of Miss Zainey. :-)

    You have seen our set up, mesh crate in the back. Good for keeping her restrained and also keeps her from barking like a loon. I would love to have a plastic crate but it won't fit in my hatchback.

  2. I think your set up is great for your car. Your backseat is like a perfect little tucked away cocoon, Sophie's not sitting up high in some massive amount of space waiting to be propelled through the windshield!..(my love/hate of SUV's)
    Zainey is finally getting used to her new 'lockdown' system. She was just too all over the place with too much room.