More than ever, pet parents are taking their four-legged kids along on road trips. Fortunately now more than ever, they’re also invested in keeping their pets safe during car rides. We recently polled our followers about the methods they use to secure their furkids in cars, and the results were encouraging. Most participants noted that they did make extra efforts to ensure their pets were safe on the road.
This is great news! Restraining pets in cars prevents driver distraction, greatly lowers the possibility of pet injury, death, or escape in the event of a crash, and reduces the chances of pets falling from car windows or doors.
It’s worth noting that experts have general safety recommendations for the best options for pet safety restraints. Michael Leung, Co-founder and lead product designer of Sleepypod, a pet bed and safety restraint manufacturer, suggests a weight-based guideline. “We’ve done extensive, rigorous internal and independent crash testing research,” he notes. “Our findings have led us to recommend a crash-tested carrier for cats and dogs less than 18 lbs. For dogs 18 lbs and over, a crash-tested car harness is the safer choice.”
Our respondents have spoken, and the results are encouraging. Here’s how the 645 pet parents polled are choosing to secure their furkids.
Specialized safety belts
Coming in at thirty-eight percent, the top choice among poll respondents for securing their pets during car trips was a pet safety belt. These devices are a combination of a pet harness and a specialized belt/tether. One end of the tether connects to the car, and the other end connects to the harness, securing the pet and restricting his movement.
For the safety of your pet, always attach his seat belt tether to his harness and never to his collar. If you already have a pet harness, you can buy a seat belt tether to go with it. If not, you will need to purchase a separate harness. If you have neither, a tether and harness set is a convenient and comprehensive option for your pup.
Pet parents have a number of pet safety belt options from which to choose, ranging from zipline models that give pets freedom to walk safely across rear seats, to bungee designs that bend and stretch for optimum wiggle room, to metal cables that keep even hearty chewers safe and secure.
The Sleepypod Clickit Sport Car Harness is a popular safety belt option for larger pets. The Clickit’s specially designed harness allows you to use the car’s own seat belt as the tether. Meanwhile, an included buckle shield prevents pooches from accidentally unbuckling the belt.
Not every pet safety belt is suited for every pet. Some options are designed for specific car models and/or specific pet sizes. Whatever option you choose, make sure that it works with your car and is a good fit for your furkid.
Pet car seats
Twenty percent of our poll respondents favored using a pet car seat combined with a tether. This option is popular for good reason – it’s as comfy as it is secure. Pet car seats range in style and type, but essentially they’re car seats designed with pets in mind. They typically feature a built-in pet tether that secures the pet in the seat, and belts or straps that anchor the seat to the car.
There are numerous pet car seat options available, from plush, soft models made for comfort, to lightweight, durable, water-resistant models made for adventures. Some pet car seats do double-duty as pet beds or carriers. Others, like the Sleepypod mobile pet bed, do triple duty as a car seat, a carrier, and a bed.
Vehicle pet barriers
Following closely in third place, 18.3 percent of respondents indicated they use vehicle pet barriers as their method of choice for keeping pets secure. Made from vinyl, mesh, or metal, pet barriers act as fences between seat rows and/or cargo areas. They keep pets from getting themselves in trouble roaming around the car, and getting their human parents in trouble by distracting them while they’re driving.
Barriers come in a number of types and styles. Some are rigid and fixed, for firm, stable support. Others are adjustable and flexible for added versatility. Some stretch across the entire width of the car, while others, like the Kurgo Auto Pet Barrier, are designed to fit across the console area. The Kurgo barrier even provides pockets for human drinks and doggie snacks.
Crates take fourth place in our poll, with 15.5 percent of respondents saying they prefer using them. Classic plastic crates are durable, simple to use, and easy to clean. Their rigid sides protect pets from impact from sudden stops, crashes, and flying projectiles. However, they aren’t the only game in town; there are also foldable models with soft sides and doors that roll up, and models that feature mesh sides for optimum airflow and duffel bag-style handles for easy carrying.
When choosing a crate, keep comfort and safety top of mind. Sizing is very important for both of these factors. Your pet shouldn’t just fit; he should have space enough to comfortably stand up, turn around, and lie down. Adding a soft pad to the crate will help him stay comfortable, and securing the crate in the car will keep it from tilting or sliding.
Hammocks + seat belts
Coming in fifth, 4.4 percent of poll participants stated that they use a pet car hammock and seat belt combo. Pet hammocks attach to the back seat and front seat headrests, creating a hammock shape between the seats. They protect car seats from dirt and debris and keep pets safely contained as they ride. Combined with a pet safety belt, a hammock provides security, comfort, and easy cleanup.
"Lay and pray"
Unfortunately, a small but concerning number of our respondents – 3.8 percent – are still not securing their pets in their vehicles. It’s understandably tempting to skip security devices, as many pet parents want their furkids to have fun and freedom on the road. However, the risks that come with this decision are very real.
Unsecured pets can cause dangerous distractions for drivers. They can become a dangerous projectile if a driver stops short or turns suddenly. They can be injured or killed if they’re thrown from the car during a serious crash. They can jump out of open car doors or windows if they get excited or frightened. Bottom line, with a little extra effort, you could save a life. What’s more, you’ll have peace of mind knowing your pet is safe, making it a happier trip for everyone.
Whatever security method you choose, make sure every device is vetted for safety. This extra step is well worth the effort. As Michael Leung put it, “A well-designed product can help make travel with a pet easier and less stressful. Safety-tested and multifunctional products bring peace of mind on the road, when there are so many unpredictable variables.”
Photo credit: Sleepypod