Do Your Pets Ride Loose in Your Car? Why This Vet Changed His Ways — and You Should Too

What about barriers and simply leashing a dog? Or putting a cat’s unsecured carrier on the seat next to you? If you think about what can happen to a leashed dog or a loose cat carrier in an accident, I have no doubt you’ll opt for safer options. Barriers prevent driver distraction, which is good, but don't offer much protection for people or pets in an accident. A simple barrier won't stop your dog or cat from becoming an airborne ball of fur in the event of a crash.

Can a Loose Pet Cause an Accident?

A properly secured pet will not be flying around the car in an accident, injuring or possibly killing people. But even under the best of conditions, a loose pet, or one that is riding in the driver's lap, can cause other issues. Driving with a dog in your lap — or simply unsecured in your car — can pose a serious distraction to the driver, which can be dangerous for everyone on the road. The risk is bad enough that in a few states it is illegal to drive with a pet on your lap. A lap-sitting pet is a distraction, just as using smartphones and eating while driving both are.

Our Becker family pets spend more time going places with us than ever before. Everything from the patios of restaurants to high-end hotels now welcome pets, especially the small dogs that have enjoyed such a meteoric rise in popularity in recent years — and who are the most likely to ride in a driver's lap. And while it's fun to take our pets everywhere we go, we need to protect them and protect ourselves from the distractions they present when we’re on the road.

So yes, I admit it: In the distant past I took my dogs for joyrides without safely securing them. And maybe you will do the same today. But as a veterinarian I know that prevention is the key to caring for our pets in the best possible way. That's why I recommend that your pets ride as mine always do now: in secured crates or in safety harnesses.

You can’t guarantee that you won’t be in an accident. But you can reduce the risk of serious harm to your passengers, your pets and yourself by not letting your animals ride loose. If you love your pets, secure them. It’s just that simple.

Read more Vetstreet articles about travel including Dr. Becker's piece, "How Can I Teach My Dog to Enjoy Car Rides?"

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