Arts & Leisure

Keep your pooch safe in your moving car

Nothing says summertime like the sight of a dog’s head out a car window — ears flying and eyes sparkling. The joy is contagious! I know we’ve all smiled at the sight of a dog standing stock still on the console looking intently ahead — “Dog is my co-pilot” for sure.

But did you know that if a car crashes at a speed of just 25mph, an unrestrained dog can be projected forward at a force equal to 40 times its weight? For example, a large-size dog weighing 75 pounds, can achieve an impact force of 3,000 pounds in a car crash. 

Did you know that airbags can seriously injury or kill a dog riding shotgun? Thanks to my daughter having recently completed a driver’s education class, I do.

The sobering fact of how dangerous it is to have a loose dog in the car made me think about how if we really consider our dogs members of our family, why do we regularly and joyfully put them in danger and increase our chances of distracted driving? Would we tell our kids to “hop in” the car and then laugh when they scramble over the console while we are driving to sit next to us in the empty passenger seat?

The common wisdom is that people need to hear things seven times before they think about changing their behavior. On the same day my daughter told me about the many horrifying ways that a loose dog in a car can die, a work colleague suggested that Homeward Bound use our social media to stress the importance of restraining dogs in cars. Hearing the same message on the same day from two people that I hold in high esteem prompted me to sit down at my keyboard.

For me it makes the third time in a week that I am thinking about this. I’ll admit, I am one of those people that you will see nuzzling with their dog at the stoplight. Moreover, my dog is reactive to many things she sees from the car, so I am also focused on distracting her with treats when I see her sight a potential trigger. I don’t text and drive, but how is this any different when it comes to creating the conditions for distracted driving?

With all the money I will have saved by not cleaning my car or car windows because I have let my dog treat it like a playground, I can choose from a variety of restraints. There are harnesses, barriers for the cargo compartments of SUVs, and crates to choose from. Each device is made differently and out of different materials, but the factors to think about are the same. Will it keep your dog restrained while you are driving? Will it prevent your dog from becoming a dangerous flying object in the event of a crash? Will it keep your dog secure in the aftermath of an accident? 

I can’t think of a worse day than one that includes both a car accident and my dog getting lost because she got scared and ran off during the chaos of emergency response activity.

Well, I’m off to Agway . . .

Jessica Danyow

Executive Director

Homeward Bound

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