I’ve had a lot of people tell me it is silly to make a dog wear a seat belt in the car. This has been an especially hot topic lately since New Jersey passed the new law. Many people, including political officials, are calling it stupid. “Absolutely ridiculous…..like NJ doesn’t have other issues to deal with that are more important than SEAT BELTS FOR PETS!” or “Seriously? Do dogs really cause car accidents?” or “For a free country, we sure are losing a lot of freedoms of choice” or “Next thing you know they will make laws requiring us to strap in Kleenex boxes”.
Most people seem to be upset that New Jersey is wasting tax dollars to make such a law. Maybe New Jersey is doing it for a good reason, or maybe it is just a way to make extra revenue. I won’t get into that debate. But I will say that many laws are made because people aren’t using common sense. Remember when states started making seat belt laws for people? There were nearly the same arguments for freedom of choice and a waste of tax dollars. But let’s consider some common sense reasons and real life examples of why dogs should wear seat belts in the car (or at least be in a pet travel crate).
1. Do unrestrained dogs in cars really kill people? The answer is yes. On September 15th of this year in East Brunswick, New Jersey, it is suspected that a dog in the vehicle was a distraction which caused the driver to lose control, crash, kill two pedestrians, and injure three others. TWO people are dead. Read the article HERE.
2. Do car accidents kill dogs? Again, yes. While the answer to this question might seem obvious, consider this relatively minor accident in Lakewood, Washington where the two occupants suffered only minor injuries but the dog died. The Pomeranian was killed when it hit the windshield. This dog could have survived if he had been restrained in a pet car harness or pet carrier. Read the article HERE.
3. What happens to a dog after an accident? Consider the terror a dog feels after the car that it is in goes out of control. The instinct of a dog in a traumatic experience is to run. And if given half they chance, dogs WILL try to run away from the accident – even if it is just a fender-bender. Consider Bella in Clinton, Montana on August 5th of this year. She and her family were in a terrible accident, a fatal accident. Bella survived. But when someone opened the car door, Bella bolted. She was so scared that no amount of calling for her or looking for her would bring her out. She ran and hid for several days, only coming out at dusk or dawn. It took a community coming together and a live trap to capture Bella. She was finally caught on August 31st… 25 days later. Imagine her fate if the community hadn’t helped. Read her story HERE.
All these stories happened within the past couple of months. And these are just a few of the stories we have come across. Multiply these three by at least 10 more recent stories we’ve found. Then multiply that by how many stories we didn’t find and how many stories never made it to the web. I bet the number goes into the hundreds. Then multiply that again by several months and I bet you have well over a thousand per year. Since there is no formal reporting system for dogs in car accidents, this is just a guess.
We all think it will never happen to us. But if it does, let’s be prepared. Consider the many well-tested dog seat belt brands. If you don’t think your dog will tolerate a seat belt, consider training him to get used to it or consider a secured pet travel crate or pet vehicle barrier. Your pet is family. Treat him/her like family.
In case of a car accident, airbags are a great safety device. Most cars nowadays have airbags for both the driver and the front passenger. But remember, airbags are made for adult people, not children or dogs. So if your dog rides in the car, be sure they are in an area that does not have airbags.
Most cars with passenger side airbags in the front seat only go off during a high impact car accident if there is someone sitting in that seat. Check with your car manufacturer to verify whether the passenger side airbags trigger automatically or only if there is a certain amount of weight in the seat. If your dog is a small dog, you may not need to worry about the airbag because the airbag sensor might not register anyone sitting in that seat. This is a safety feature that was set up to protect a child sitting in the front seat since you do not want the airbags to deploy for small children.
However, to be certain that the airbag does not deploy when your dog is in the front seat, check your car manual to see if the front passenger airbag can be disabled. If not, have your large dog ride in the back seat or have your small dog sit in a pet booster seat which hangs from the headrest of the seat rather than sits on the seat itself. With the pet booster seat hanging from the headrest, the airbag may not trigger since there is no weight in the seat. You can also push the seat as far back from the airbag as possible.
A missing may need medical care after being in a car accident. Buddy escaped from the car after the car rolled over in a one-car accident in Hartland, New York near the Fort Hyde Kennels. Buddy is a rare catahoula leopard dog who survived Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. Buddy is three years old and black and brown in color.
Please, if you live in this area and see this dog, contact Fort Hyde Kennels. For more information on the accident and Buddy’s description visit http://www.lockportjournal.com/local/local_story_317002310.html.