The hows and whys of keeping your pets in seat belts

Patty Khuly, DVM
Updated: September 02, 2015
Published: June 03, 2009
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A couple of weeks ago the largest pet health insurance company in the U.S. (Veterinary Pet Insurance) released a report detailing the ten most common reasons pets break their bones. 

Though some causes were no-brainers (being hit by a car seems like a pretty obvious way to have your bones crunched and splintered), # 10 was truly eye-opening: Pets also break bones when they’re thrown about while riding in a when your vehicle crashes into another or you suddenly hit the brakes to avoid doing so.

If your pet rides in the car with you at all, he or she should be restrained. Not only can they hurt themselves seriously in an accident, they can become unsafe projectiles that can harm the strapped-in passengers...even when you do manage to avoid the squirrel in the road or the car that makes a sudden lane change. 

According to Fire Rescue sources, pets may also prove a major obstacle when it comes time to administering the aid necessary after a serious accident. If pets are not restrained in these instances (especially when they’re scared witless or should they assume a protective stance), it may mean a delay in the amount of time it takes to get everyone involved the medical attention they need. And God knows seconds count in serious injuries. 

Then there’s the issue of safety when it comes to jumping out of the window (I’ve seen it happen more than once, always followed quickly by the words, “he never did that before”). Or the problem that arises when pets prove a major distraction (as when they’re cavorting from one side of the car to the other). 

So what’s the solution? Seat belts! 

Not only are seat belts the primary means of keeping humans safe in an automobile, pets can be easily strapped in with them or safely confined with a variety of different methods:

  • There’s the basic version, which involves a harness that sports a handle through which your vehicle’s seat belt runs. A variety of styles are available. 
  • There’s the crate-and-strap variety that allows your simple small crate to be strapped in securely with your car’s seat belts.
  • Then there’s the obvious:  A large crate (as for a dog) can be relegated to a separate compartment of the vehicle into which it fits relatively snugly. This tried-and-true method enjoys great popularity among the dog show set.
  • And finally, the partition method, which is not so safe as the others, but which keeps pets from flying across the entirety of the vehicle. A simple grate bolted between the back seat and cargo is the most common approach here. 

For my money, the simplest and most natural is also the one that keeps me closest to my dogs. Here’s my Vincent wearing his own seat-belt as he rides along in my car. Just don’t do what I did...and take a photo while driving. Sure it’s cute, but wait ‘till the car stops to take your shot...please!

Last reviewed on September 2, 2015