Consider pet's safety when riding in vehicles

Sept. 22, 2010 at 4:22 a.m.

by John Beck

My mom is always driving around with her shih tzu in her lap. I don't think it is very safe for her to drive that way. Do you know of any laws associated with pet safety in the car?

Obviously, working at a veterinary clinic, we see people driving with their pets all the time. Some choose to allow their pets to roam in the car, some feel the back seat or cabin is best and others allow their pets to ride in the bed of the truck. Currently, there are no state laws or city ordinances pertaining to where or how your pet rides in your vehicle.

The best place for your pet (if left unrestrained) is as far back in the vehicle as possible. In this scenario, if an accident were to occur, your pet might be saved from hitting you or your windshield.

Be careful when allowing your pets to ride in the bed of pick-up trucks. Time and time again, we see dogs that have fallen or jumped from the bed of a truck and hurt themselves. Some of these dogs where experienced riders and others new puppies. Either way, they always have pretty severe injuries with the most common being a broken leg. If you really want your dog to ride in the bed of your truck, there are commercial tethering systems that can be installed to keep your pet safe.

We see a lot of small-breed dogs that will jump from the seat or owners lap right out the window while the car is moving. A good rule is to only open the windows wide enough for your pet to place their head out the window, unless the pet is retrained in the car, then windows can be let down all the way.

Another great option for your pet is a crate. Placing your pet in a crate during travel not only protects them if you are involved in a crash, but also protects your vehicle in case your pet gets car sick or has an accident. If your pet is an experienced rider and never has car sickness or accidents, pet safety belts can also be installed. There are many places who sell pet booster seats and safety belt conversion kits that are both very easy to install and comfortable for your pet to wear.

Also, consider your personal safety when choosing how and where your pet rides. You shouldn't place the pet in a position that would impair your driving ability. Also, avoid places that might cause your pet to obstruct your line of sight. If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact me or your local veterinarian.

Dr. John Beck has a veterinary practice at Hillcrest Animal Hospital in Victoria. Submit questions to Dr. Beck at



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