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Car Safety Tips for Dogs

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Traveling with your dog? Don't think for a second that safety belts are merely for people. As canine companions go along for the ride, dogs need to be strapped in, too -- to protect everyone.

A car traveling at 30 mph can result in a 60-pound dog  (such as a  medium-sized Boxer or a  smaller Labrador Retriever) crashing into the windshield, seat, or another passenger with an impact of 2,700 pounds, according to Bark-Buckle UP, a pet safety advocacy group based in San Diego, Calif. The risks, of course, increase at higher travel speeds.

Additional dangers posed by unrestrained animals include distracting the driver, or escaping the vehicle and causing a collision on the road. In addition, keep in mind that if the driver is perceived to be in danger after an accident, a protective dog might fend off would-be rescuers.

The Travel Industry Association reports 29.1 million U.S. adults have traveled with a pet for a distance of 50 miles or more, one way, in the past three years, with 67 percent of that travel by car or truck.

Even car companies are getting into the act. Volvo offers an optional, factory-installed cage. Subaru has a gate preventing pets from entering the main passenger area, and Saab has a metal cargo guard in some car models. Eager to follow the trend, the auto insurance industry now offers policies for pets.

Buckle up

Many restraints are available for purchase, from harnesses to car seats, safety belts, and fencing. Some carriers are even temperature-controlled for traveling in extreme climates.

Bark Buckle UP collects in-depth statistics about pet safety and advocates legislative solutions. The organization also tracks product development, using focus groups to test for quality and awarding a seal of safety. The organization does not sell products, but certain products are featured on its Web site.

Top pet safety product awards for 2007 were announced at the New York International Auto Show in March. The big winners:

  • Pet Safe Vehicle of Choice in America: Volvo C90 with its optional rear kennel system.
  • Small pet: Sleepypod is a pet bed that combines a bed and travel carrier. It can be strapped into a car seat or used on airplanes.
  • Large dog: Kurgo's safety harness.
  • Accessory for SUV: The Pet Buckle Truck Tether keeps your dog securely restrained while traveling.
  • Travel accessory: Furry Travelers "To Go Bowl'' fits into a car cup holder and stores both water and treats. It has a splash guard and lids for water and food.
  • Technical product: Zoombak GPS Dog Locator. This lightweight global positioning system lets you know where your dog is at virtually all times.

It pays to shop around. Many of these products are offered from various sources, including www.amazon.com.

Credit: Reviewed by Amy I. Attas, V.M.D.
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