I've heard it said many times by friends and relatives who own pet dogs that their Fido is another member of the family.
However, I also see the same owners restrain their children properly in the car when setting out on a journey but leave the dog unrestrained and potentially free to move around. Every animal travelling in a car should be either contained or restricted from moving around freely.
A recent survey by the AA of their pet-owning members found that one-in-four admitted to driving with unrestrained pets.
It really is important to restrain your pet properly because in a crash not only could the animal be seriously injured it could end up being thrown about inside the car hurting other passengers.
Take this example. At 50 kmh, a 25kg Labrador which is roughly the same weight as an average six-year-old child would be thrown forward with a force equivalent to more than 600kg.
The consequences of having an unrestrained pet can extend to driver distraction. Even pets that are normally well behaved could be frightened by or suffer from sickness when travelling in a car. In this situation their behavior could be unpredictable.
Few collision statistics are available for the number of pets killed or injured while travelling as passengers in cars. However, there are some from the UK where 2pc of owners have reported having a crash or near miss as a result of a dog being loose in their car.
We have been provided with research, conducted among eight leading vets in Dublin and Meath, which found that an average of five dogs a month sustain injuries in a car. Of these, two or three die from their injuries.
Our advice is to always ensure your pet is secured in a dog harness, a carrier, or behind a metal guard. The most suitable restraint will probably depend on the size and temperament of your pet.
For medium or large sized dogs a harness that attaches to the seat belt is recommended. It should go around the dog's chest, back and shoulders and is attached to the car seat belt, which should be fastened. You can order a dog harness and dog seat belt for less than €20 in most pet stores. Check that it is suitable for your dog's size and weight.
Try to make sure that your dog cannot get entangled in the harness because this will be uncomfortable and could end up being a distraction for the person behind the wheel.
For smaller dogs, cats and others, a pet carrier is a good option. It needs to be the correct size and should be held firmly in place with the seat belt or by wedging it firmly on the floor behind the front seat. Never put a carrier in the boot of a saloon car as your pet could suffocate, and avoid putting it unsecured in the boot of a hatchback or estate, as the carrier will be thrown around in a crash.
You can also get dog guards for most estate cars and these can stop the animal from distracting the passengers or driver. But don't forget to restrain the animal. If left to simply sit in the back it will suffer injury in the event of a crash.
Don't leave the dog unattended in the car either. They are at risk of stressing due to overheating or thinking their owner is not coming back if you leave them for long periods.
Letting your dog stick its head out the window is a big no-no, as dirt and insects can get into its eyes and nose. There is also the danger of it jumping or falling out.
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