The Danger For Pets On The Road

The Danger For Pets On The Road

If it's any indication of the danger free-roaming pets face in a vehicle, New Hampshire, the country's only state that does not have a mandatory seat belt law, actually requires dogs to buckle up.

Live free or die, goes the state's motto, but Spike and Spot don't have that liberty. And with due reason. Seven other states, Connecticut, California, Massachusetts, Nevada, Washington, Oregon and Rhode Island require owners to kennel or tether animals because of the severe danger the sudden stops and potential collisions pose to pets. An unrestrained dog can land you with a ticket between $50 and $200.

Animal lovers would almost always rather take their pet with them to run errands or on a road trip than leave them at home or at a pet motel. But for all that love for canines, most drivers have seen "dog people" take things too far, driving with their dogs in their laps or lying around their shoulders like a neck pillow and, yes, sometimes at the wheel.

And it's a double dose of danger: for the distracted driver and the unrestrained animal.

"If you make a sudden stop, your dog can be thrown through the windshield," said Loretta Worters, spokesperson for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. "He could also be thrown to the floor and interfere with access to gas and brake pedals."

The epidemic is so high that some insurance companies like Progressive and State Farm are offering collision coverage for customers' dogs or cats at no additional premium cost. The insurance will pay up to $1,000 if a customer's dog or cat suffers injury or death.

Even a few innocent doggie licks can be like sending a text message, removing your attention from the task at hand.

"If you get into an accident, an unrestrained pet is launched forward like a missile, through the windshield and outside the car,"  said Dr. Kat Miller, Director of Applied Science and Research for the ASPCA. "If he survives he'll make a run for it, out of fear and pain."

Traveling while holding them in your lap isn't any safer. If the car has airbags and the pet is in the front seat, he will be crushed by the airbag when it deploys, and he will also crush your own chest if he's still on your lap between you and the airbag.

According to BarkBuckleUp.com, when driving 35 mph, a 60-pound unrestrained dog can cause an impact of 2,700 pounds, slamming into a car seat, windshield or passenger. Talk about letting the dogs out.

An injured or scared pet may bite someone trying to help.

Perhaps the most distressing for dog lovers is the familiar southern sight of dogs riding in the back of an open pick-up going down the highway at 60, 70, 80 miles per hour. It boils down to simple logic: driving with a dog loose in the car is stupid. People who will go bananas to get the perfect doggie treat for Fido, but might do well to consider his sensitive cerebral cortex instead.

Faux-Paws: The Dog With Wanderlust

Faux-Paws: The Dog With Wanderlust

It's certainly a cute sight but not recommended. K.S. Brooks is a novelist/photographer who chronicled her adventures with her terrier in Mr. Pish's Woodland Adventure. Here Mr. Pish takes the wheel of the Honda CR-V, happily out of the booster seat that serves as his usual traveling quarters.

Recommended Product: Roadie Ruff Rider

Recommended Product: Roadie Ruff Rider

Here "Betty" the Boston Terrier sports a Roadie Ruff Rider travel harness riding in the 2011 Range Rover HSE Sport.

Faux-Paws: Igor, The Driving Cat

Faux-Paws: Igor, The Driving Cat

Cats, too, like the automotive rush of being behind the wheel. Igor has a taste for fast driving.

Amanda Jobs, Igor's owner, works in the auto industry making valve spring retainers for foreign and domestic auto engines. In the Bay View neighborhood of Milwaukee, WI, Igor has cultivated his mama's love for cars, which he demonstrates here to her boyfriend Elvis (note the sideburns). 

But even though Igor may have nine lives, he might be safer in a more secure position.

Recommended Product: Coastal Easy Rider and PetBuckle

Recommended Product: Coastal Easy Rider and PetBuckle

Instead, pet harnesses are as stable as they are fashionable.

Here Betty in a 2011 Dodge Durango wears a pink Coastal Easy Rider travel harness in the crate, which itself is tethered in the PetBuckle for added stability.

Faux-Paws: The Psychologist Poodle With A 'Fro

Faux-Paws: The Psychologist Poodle With A 'Fro

Freud, a parti-standard poodle, likes to drive in his family's BMW 128i convertible. As his owner, Andrea Zarchin tells it, he's always cultivated a love for automobiles.

"'Car' was one of the first words the he learned and he's always eager to go for a ride when asked," she said. "On a nice day, we'll take the top off of the convertible and Freud loves feeling the wind blowing through his poofy poodle 'fro."

It's certainly an adorable sight to have a poodle en plein air (and good for his Viennese psychologist brand), but everything in moderation.

Recommended Product: Furry Travelers Bowl

Recommended Product: Furry Travelers Bowl

Here Princess, a MinPin, indulges in the Furry Traveler's Bowl for fresh water and snacks, and she stays secure in the Roadie Ruff Rider travel harness. A dog can enjoy the ride well-fed while being safe.

Faux-Paws: The Pooch With An Affinity For The Cabriolet

Faux-Paws: The Pooch With An Affinity For The Cabriolet

Here Emma enjoys a drive in a 1988 BMW 325i cabriolet on a fall foliage drive between Idaho Springs and Central City, Colorado.  

Sure, the dog looks chic, but you don't want her to fly out over the hood and become Kibbles 'n Bits.

Recommended Product: Buddy Belt, PetBuckle Tether and Camo Seatcover

Recommended Product: Buddy Belt, PetBuckle Tether and Camo Seatcover

Here Betty and Princess are in an Acura MDX wearing Buddy Belt harnesses with the PetBuckle Tether and lounging on the Camo seatcover. 

Faux Paws: Otto, The Mirror Dog

Faux Paws: Otto, The Mirror Dog

Here's Otto (whose name is an appropriate homonym for "auto") enjoying the view and learning that OBJECTS ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR in this 2006 two-door Honda Civic. He's nicknamed "Little Man," but perspective-altering mirrors can change everything. 

Recommended Product: Harness

Recommended Product: Harness

Woody (left), a 13-year-old terrier mix (a Jack Russell and schnauzer), and Roxy, a 5-month-old Boxer mix, enjoy the back seat of a Honda CR-V for Roxy's first visit to the Seal Beach dog park in California.

They are secured in a doggie harness, and though they may not feel the freedom of wind through their fur, they are secure inside the vehicle.

Faux-Paws: This Schnauzer-Poodle Won't Take The Passenger Seat

Faux-Paws: This Schnauzer-Poodle Won't Take The Passenger Seat

"I have the cutest picture of my schnauzer-poodle puppy, Stella, riding on my back in the front seat of my Volvo S60," Brittany Miller wrote to AOL Autos. "She started out in the passenger seat but she crept her way over to my side and perched herself on my back. Driving was difficult, but it was so funny."

It's cute once, but owners who care about their pets need to avoid this distracting measure.

Recommended Product: Doggie Belt-Buckle

Recommended Product: Doggie Belt-Buckle

Don't let your pet play kissy-kissy with the windshield. Give him a comfy, secure ride.

Faux-Paws: The Happy Traveling Retriever

Faux-Paws: The Happy Traveling Retriever

Spencer the golden retriever drives an Infinity FX SUV.

"I may be biased, but he is the cutest golden retriever I have ever seen," said his owner, Fran Harrow.

He particularly enjoys the pleasure of sticking his head out of the moon roof. 

"Beware if you are riding in the passenger seat," Harrow said, "because that's where Spencer wants to sit. Without warning you will suddenly have a 90-pound golden on your lap."

Recommended Product: The Doggie Harness

Recommended Product: The Doggie Harness

Here in a Mazda5, the pooch can enjoy the view while the driver remains calm about his safety.

Faux-Paws: The Snuggly Kitten

Faux-Paws: The Snuggly Kitten

Tabby cat Independence, aka Indie, loves the rumble of the '98 Olds Silhouette. 

Recommended Product: The Backseat Dog Bed

Recommended Product: The Backseat Dog Bed

"Poncho will often bark at trucks, especially FedEx and UPS, but he was so comfortable that he didn't!" said Joan Hunter Mayer, of the 10-pound Chihuahua mutt's recent ride in her 2000 Ford Explorer.

"Ever since we got him, even before I was a trainer, he has ridden in either a car-seat with harness and seat-belt, or just harness and seat-belt," Mayer said. "They can so easily be hurt or killed."

Faux-Paws: The Somnolent Car Doggie

Faux-Paws: The Somnolent Car Doggie

This Dutch Shepherd mix takes on the 2007 Honda Civic...languidly.

"While most dogs are thrilled to stick their head out the window and watch the world flying by, my dog, Rocket, falls asleep the second we put him in the car," said owner Kathryn Steed. "He gets comfy in the back seat and rarely even opens his eyes to see what's going on."

Here Rocket practices his sleeping skills on a 12-hour road trip to West Virginia. 

Recommended Product: The Attention Grabbing Goldendoodle in a Bungee Harness

Recommended Product: The Attention Grabbing Goldendoodle in a Bungee Harness

Jeff, a one-year-old Goldendoodle, never rides shotgun. His family has a bungee cord that extends across the roof of the Honda CR-V on the inside that attaches to his harness.

"Let me know if you use the photo," his owner Keith Fernbach said. "Jeff likes to keep track of all his press."

Faux-Paws: The Caddy Kitty

Faux-Paws: The Caddy Kitty

Benny the Caddy Kitty adores his family's Cadillac Escalade. Here he seems to be helping with the gas pedal and breaks and reminding his owners to service the air bags.

Recommended Product: Crates

Recommended Product: Crates

Here the pooches enjoy the security of a crate, which prevents them from flying into the windshield or out the window.