What you have to do to make sure you and your pet are safe in the car
Our Road Safety Authority expert has practical advice - and warnings
I got a text message the other day from a friend. He'd bought a dog a couple of months ago and naturally enough it's growing fast, which prompted the message. It read: "Tell me, is it safe for the dog to go in the front with me?"
I told him that unless the dog had a driving licence it would probably be best to keep it in a harness in the back seat. I explained that naturally enough the dog could distract him while driving, or worse still jump onto his lap while driving with serious consequences.
Even pets that are normally well behaved could be frightened by or suffer from sickness when travelling in a car. In this situation their behaviour could be unpredictable.
We get asked regularly by dog owners about transporting their pets safety in the car and our advice is to always ensure the animal is safely secured in a harness, carrier, or behind a metal guard. The most suitable restraint will probably depend on your pet's size and temperament.
For medium or large sized dogs a harness that attach's to the seatbelt is recommended. It should go round the dog's chest, back and shoulders and is attached to the car seatbelt, which should be fastened. You can pick up a harness for less than €10 in motor factors and pet stores. Just be sure it is designed to be used in a car. Check it is suitable for your dog's size and weight.
Try to make sure your pet cannot get entangled in the harness as this will be uncomfortable and could distract the driver.
For smaller dogs, cats and other pets, 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 car, as the carrier will be thrown around if there was a crash. Again you can pick up carriers in most motor factors and pet stores and prices range from €20 to €60.
You can also get dog guards for most estate cars and these can stop the pet from distracting the passengers or driver. But don't forget to also restrain the animal. If left to simply sit in the back unrestrained it will suffer injury in the event of a crash.
It really is important to restrain your pet properly in the car because in a crash, not only could the animal be seriously injured it could end up being thrown about the inside the car hurting other passengers. Take this example. At 50 km/h, a 25 kg 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.
Don't leave dogs 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 unattended in the car for long periods of time.
And a word to the driver I passed on the way home from work last week who let his springer spaniel stick his head out the window. Don't let your pet stick its head out of the window please because dirt and insects can get into its eyes and nose. There is also the obvious danger of the animal jumping or God forbid, falling out of the car.