Animal Law

Keeping Your Pets Safe While on the Road

How often do you see someone driving down the road with a dog in their car or in the bed of their pickup truck? Now, think about it again: How many times have you seen the dog wearing a seat belt or safely secured in the truck bed?

Probably never. There are items you can buy to keep your pet, and you, safe while on the road.

Dangerous Travels

It looks cute, and both you and your pet probably enjoy it a great deal when you drive with your pet in your lap, or with his head hanging out a window catching the breeze. It's dangerous, though, to you, your pet, your other human passengers, and other drivers on the road.

For example, imagine you're driving with your pet loose in the car or in the bed of your pick-up truck:

  • If suddenly you have to stop or swerve, your pet may be thrown out of the vehicle. At the very least, he becomes a projectile inside the vehicle that may cause you and other passengers serious injuries
  • If you hit or get hit by another car and your air bag deploys, you and your pet may suffer serious injury if your pet's in your lap at the time
  • Your pet may distract you with a sudden lick of your face, a need to be petted, or crawling around at your feet, making it difficult to drive safely
  • Your pet may jump out of the vehicle to chase another animal

The end result of any of these scenarios: You, your pet, or other drivers may get hurt, or worse. And, more often than not, you and your insurance company will have to pay for the damage. "It was my dog's fault" is no defense!

Safety First

Very few states have laws requiring pet owners to restrain or secure their pets while inside their vehicles. Nonetheless, there are products you can buy to keep everyone safe:

  • Crates or "pet carriers." These are like a mini-cage; especially good for small dogs and cats, but they come in larger sizes for larger animals. Just remember to secure the crate! In an accident or when making unexpected quick turns and stops, you don't need a cage hurtling around in your car
  • Harnesses. These come in all sorts of styles and sizes, but essentially they're like seat belts. Typically, they wrap around the chest and shoulders and you plug a clip into your car's seat belt mechanism, or secure it to a tie-down in the bed of your pick-up truck
  • Nets or gates. Typically, these are for larger animals and larger vehicles, like SUVs. Essentially, they keep your pet confined to the back seat or cargo area of the vehicle. This may be good to prevent your pet from distracting you or becoming a projectile-like threat to you and others in the vehicle. However, they don't do much to keep the pet safe in emergency - your pet is still loose and may be thrown around and injured

There are other safety devices out there, and you can find them online or at your local pet store. The trick is to find the one that's right for you and your pet.

After all, our pets part of our families. Just as a parent makes sure his child is safe in the car, we should do the same for pets. Doing so helps keep our "families" together for many years.

Questions For Your Attorney

  • What are the pet restraint laws in our state?
  • My dog bit a stranger who came to close, and uninvited, to my car while we were in a parking lot. He's suing me for doctor's bills and other money. Does he have a case?
  • My vet says the car restraint I've been using caused neck injuries to my pet. Is this a "product liabilities" case?
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