Offers Car Safety Tips For Pets

Armen Hareyan's picture

If your dog or cat feels like a family member, chances are you travel together in the car. "It's really best to leave animals at home, but when they do need to travel by car, it's important that they're properly restrained," said Mary Ann Karas, administrator at Angels for Animals, a Canfield, Ohio-based animal shelter that has adopted out over 12,000 spayed and neutered animals in its 18-year history., a vehicle pricing and buying guide website, recognizes that sometimes, pets just need to come along for the ride. As such, it offers important safety tips to keep your pet -- and the rest of your family -- safe on the road.

Secure small pets in a carrier.

Because cats are generally uncomfortable traveling by car, secure them -- and small dogs -- in a carrier with opaque sides, ventilation holes on all sides and plenty of room for sitting and standing.

"Secure a seat belt around the pet car carrier and through the handle of the carrier," said Tara Baukus Mello, senior writer and lead market analyst at "Or secure the carrier in the cargo area so it doesn't become a dangerous projectile, injuring human occupants or the animal, during an emergency driving maneuver."

Secure larger dogs with a restraining harness.

"Animals get thrown off balance easily as a vehicle corners or stops, which can cause them to fall when they are loose," said Karas, who personally owns five dogs. According to Baukus Mello, harnesses that buckle around the shoulders and chest of a medium or large breed dog offer a secure restraint while reducing the possibility of a neck injury or choking if the animal is restrained at the collar.


There are a variety of harnesses -- or pet seat belts -- on the market today perfect for larger dogs, including ones that work with a vehicle's seat belt (sometimes known as a dog car seat), and others designed for the cargo space of a minivan, SUV, wagon, or in a pickup truck bed.

"If you use a harness that works with a vehicle's seat belt, your dog needs to be able to sit still long enough to be strapped in and comfortable enough to sit the entire journey," said Baukus Mello.

Cargo hold harnesses use the ring located at the center of the dog's chest to hook to a short tether, which is connected to a tie-down ring in the cargo space. This type of dog car harness offers more freedom of movement than a seat-belt-type restraint, giving the dog the ability to stand, sit or lie down.

"Make sure the tether is long enough to allow movement but not too long for the dog to reach an open window or tailgate," said Baukus Mello. "Even if a car pet barrier has been installed in your vehicle, a loose animal in the cargo area is not safe."

Never leave your pet unattended.

Baukus Mello also reminds pet owners not to leave their furry friends alone in a vehicle to protect their health as well as possible animal theft. "The most dramatic rise in temperature is during the first 15 minutes of a car being parked, so leaving a pet alone for even a few minutes can be life-threatening."

She says high temperatures can result in a pet experiencing heatstroke, brain damage and possibly suffocation, even if the windows are opened slightly.

Not only has pet safety in vehicles become an important issue among pet owners and animal rights advocates, insurance companies are making it a priority also. Progressive, for example, now offers complimentary Pet Injury Coverage with your Collision coverage, paying up to $500 to help with veterinary bills and medicine should your dog or cat get injured in an accident while riding with you.