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Want to take a dog on a road trip? You must do it safely

Posted September 2, 2019

Our pets are our best friends and we want to have adventures with them. There is nothing better than a good ol’ road trip, but do you actually know how to ensure your dog’s safety in the car? A new research from the University of Adelaide suggests that a compulsory testing of in-car dog restraints and better education about pet safety in cars are absolutely necessary.

We want to take dogs on our trips, but we have to do it safely. Image credit: Christopher Michel via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0)

Where does your dog sit when you are driving around? Not on someone’s lap, we hope? Actually, the situation is not that bad in Australia – most drivers put their pets on the back seat and make sure they are not loose – all pets must be restrained when they are riding in a car. This is best done with special harnesses, which tie into buckles of seat belts. But are all restraints made equal? Studies and tests have shown that not all of them are effective at preventing dangerous movement in traffic accidents.

The idea here is very simple – you don’t want your pet flying around the car injuring everybody during a car crash. Conventional seat belts are made with people, not pets in mind and they don’t work on dogs or cats. Special restraints are needed. The problem is that not everyone is using them. For example, in New South Wales and Queensland over 70% of owners restraining their dogs, while in South Australia it was just 62%. Typically, younger drivers drive around with unrestrained dogs. Also, bigger dogs are left unrestrained more usually.

But buying a restraint is not that easy. NRMA Insurance tested 25 commercially available dog restraints and found that only 2 of them were effective at restraining the dummy. The issue is that manufacturers of these harnesses are trying to make products that fit well enough for everyone, which results in a harness which is not good for anyone. Also, there is no testing required for the designs of the dog restraint, which results in insufficient protection.

If you think that restraining a dog is not that important, you’re simply very wrong. It is crucial. A loose dog might come to the driver and become a major distraction. It can also run around getting in a way of car controls. Dr Susan Hazel, lead author of the study, said: “Even more importantly, if your dog is not restrained and you’re in an accident, your dog can be seriously injured or killed. If your dog becomes a projectile in an accident, other people in the car may also be seriously injured”.

But is it possible to enforce some kind of testing on these restraints? Probably not. However, manufacturers could take it upon themselves to do a voluntary testing and use it as an advantage against competitors. More importantly, drivers have to be educated about the need to restrain their animals while travelling in the car.


Source: University of Adelaide

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