Buckling Up Your Pup: How Pet Safety Is Changing The Way We Travel

(Photo Credit: SleepyPod.com)

I have a small chihuahua mix that does NOT like to take car rides. Whenever she has to go for a ride, she has her spot: she curls up in the passenger seat foot area and does not move until the car is stopped.

I really thought I lucked out with this pup travel-wise. How easy is this? I have seen drivers with pups on their laps, heads out the window with their tongue hanging out. I have been in cars with dogs that get motion sickness within minutes and insist on being on their owner’s lap. As far as I was concerned – and to a certain extent still am – I am pretty good when it comes to car safety with my pup.

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Dogs peaking out of car windows on summer road trips may soon be a thing of the past, however. Even the way I travel with my pup may soon seem outmoded and straight up negligent. I know, it sounds a little over the top, but think about it: isn’t it funny that dog owners will buckle themselves up without a second thought and yet, we leave our furry friends to wander aimlessly in the car?

The American Humane Society reports that an estimated 100,000 dogs die each year from riding in truck beds, and that startling number doesn’t even include dogs lost from jumping out of car windows or in car crashes.

With this in mind, it is easy to understand why Lindsey Wolko, the founder of the Center for Pet Safety, is so passionate about spreading awareness about pet travel safety. Since founding the non-profit, Wolko has teamed up with car manufacturers to run safety tests for traveling with your pooch. Not only do they advocate restraining your dog while traveling, but they have tested the effectiveness of dog harnesses and seat belts on the market and are currently testing carriers and crates.

“We have several brands [of crates and carriers] that claim “crash testing” or “passed crash testing” – but there are currently no crash test protocols or ratings guidelines to define what “passed” means. We saw this in harnesses too. Manufacturers typically embellish marketing claims to sell a product, because they don’t want to spend the money on the ample due diligence to ensure that the product can actually do something of significance,” Wolko said.

To some, Wolko’s enormous efforts may seem a little over-the-top. Crazy dog mom. That sort of thing. But just a little over 50 years ago, there was no surgeon general warning on cigarettes and seeing a pregnant woman light up would not be considered negligent or abusive to her unborn child. The idea of sunscreen hasn’t always been in vogue, and to some it still may not, but the effectiveness of it is preached by every dermatologist. Even drunk driving laws have not always been as strict as they are today.

The point is, there are some things we as a society used to be blissfully unaware of, but as we learned, we adjusted to increase our safety and health. In theory, shouldn’t we do the same for our dogs? Maybe you will feel like the uncool kid whose parent forces them to wear a helmet while bike riding if you buckle up your dog. But if the CPS’s studies break out more and raise more awareness, we could have laws just like Click It or Ticket for our furry traveling companions, and buckling up your pup won’t even be a question. We may look back at the days when we let Fido roam around the car freely the way people look back at the time when indoor smoking was prevalent: it was pretty careless, but most of the general public didn’t know much better.

With my little terrified dog who refuses to move while the car is in motion, I honestly don’t know if I will invest in some sort of puppy car safety harness in the near future. Does that make me a negligent dog parent? Maybe to some people, it does. Maybe to others, it makes me a laid back dog owner who knows her dog’s comfort levels.

I am curious to hear what you all do when you travel with your dog – are you the person who comparative shops for dog harnesses and has the best one on the market? Or have you been laughing at this article the entire time, wondering what is the next level of coddling-insanity dog owners will take? Regardless, it’s a conversation worth having and a topic worth thinking about.