Vehicle Safety for Pets

Chances are that when you get into your vehicle, you buckle your seatbelt without even thinking about it; do you stop to think about your pet’s safety when they travel with you?

Your pet should be restrained in your vehicle. Suitable restraints include:

  • A crate, kennel or carrier
    • A sturdy, well secured crate/kennel/carrier is a safe way for your dog or cat to travel. Ensure that the crate is large enough for your pet to stand, lie down and turn around comfortably, and that it is well ventilated.
    • Secure your pet’s crate within your vehicle to avoid it (and your pet) becoming a dangerous projectile in the event of an accident.
      • Look for a crate that is designed to have a seatbelt attached to it.
      • If you drive an SUV, or similar, a large crate can be secured in the vehicle’s cargo space. If you drive a car and/or your pet’s crate is on the smaller side, it can be secured on the vehicle’s backseat.
    • Never place the crate on the front passenger seat as your pet is at risk of injury from the front passenger airbags
  • A car barrier
    • A car barrier is intended to confine your dog to part of your vehicle. This minimizes the extent to which they are a distraction to you – the driver, and prevents them from becoming a projectile in the event of a crash
      • In a crash, your dog will be thrown around within the area to which they are confined, which may result in injury.
    • Car barriers for cars typically confine a dog the backseat, while car barriers for SUVs keep the dog in the cargo space.
    • While better than no restraint, a car barrier is not as effective as a crate at keeping your pet safe while traveling.
  • A car harness/seatbelt
    • Dog seatbelts generally consist of a harness for your dog to wear and a tether to keep them on the seat.
      • Look for a harness with wide, well-padded straps as these will dissipate impact better in a crash.
      • Never attach a seatbelt to your dog’s collar as they could be strangled in a crash.
    • Tethers should be short enough to keep your dog from being thrown off the seat, but long enough that they can sit and lie down comfortably

For safety’s sake, your pet should not travel in the following ways:

  • Loose in your vehicle
    • As many as 1 in 5 American drivers admit to driving with a dog(s) loose in their vehicle. Loose pets are implicated in thousands of car accidents per year (Sharp, 2021 (US Data)).
    • A loose pet can be distraction to you – the driver – and could block your view of the road and/or other traffic.
    • Loose pets can get into the driver’s foot well, interfering with use of the pedals.
    • Loose pets can become projectiles in the event of a crash. Not only can they be seriously injured – or worse – but they can also injure other passengers.
    • In the event of an accident, loose pets can be a hazard to first responders.
  • On the front seat
    • Airbags are designed to protect adult humans; they can cause serious injuries to your pet if they deploy in a crash.
      • Pets should not ride in the front seat, even if they are in a crate/wearing a seatbelt.
  • With their head out of the window
    • Although it’s common to see a dog riding with their head sticking out of a car window, allowing your dog to ride like this is not a safe practice. With their heads out of the car window, dogs are at risk of:
      • Eye, ear and/or face injuries from flying debris, insects, etc.
      • Being thrown from the vehicle in a crash
      • Jumping out of a moving vehicle
  • In a truck bed
    • Dogs in truck beds are at risk of:
      • Jumping or falling out of the truck bed
        • The fall itself may result in injury. The dog is also at risk of being run over – either by the vehicle they were riding in – or by other traffic
    • Injuries from debris, tree branches, etc.
    • In some provinces, it is illegal to transport an unsecured pet in the bed of a pick-up truck
      • Tethering a dog(s) in a truck bed is unacceptable as a means of restraint, as the dog could be dragged and/or hang themselves should they fall, or jump, out of the truck bed while tethered.
    • Approximately 100,000 pets die per year as a result of riding in a truck bed (American Humane, 2016 (US Data))