Bark Buckle Up dog harness
Bark Buckle Up dog harness. Click image to enlarge

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Oshawa, Ontario – We’ve all seen them: dogs happily sitting on a front passenger’s lap, wandering back and forth in the back seat, or with their heads hanging out the window. But just as we’ve learned the importance of securing children into a car, it’s time to start buckling up our pets.

Sitting up front, a dog can risk fatal injury from an airbag, even in a minor collision. In the rear, it could be thrown with enough force to seriously injure human passengers. And if the collision is severe enough to require first responders, an unsecured pet could attack the firefighter or paramedic who’s trying to save you, or run into traffic once a door is opened.

“We suggest avoiding the front seat, because of the airbags and the distraction, as we tend to reach over and pay attention to them,” said Christina Selter of Bark Buckle UP, a pet safety advocacy group based in San Diego, California.

Christina Selter, pet safety expert with Bark Buckle UP
Bark Buckle Up dog harness
Christina Selter, pet safety expert with Bark Buckle UP (top); Bark Buckle Up dog harness. Click image to enlarge

“It’s safer to be in the back seat, or further back in an SUV or station wagon, with a travel harness that works with tethers or the human safety belt. They can sit down or move around, but they can’t fall off the seat, and they can’t get out of the vehicle. For cats and smaller dogs, they should be in a carrier that’s secured with tie-downs, because if you just sit that on the seat, it’ll fly through the car.”

Selter cites a chilling statistic: in a collision of just 56 km/h (35 mph), an unsecured dog that weighs 27 kg (60 lbs) will launch with a force of 1,224 kg (2,700 lbs). “If it hits you in the back of the neck, it would break your neck, or be launched through the windshield,” she said.

If a front airbag deploys when you have a pet on your lap, the airbag will almost certainly kill the animal. Not only that, but Selter said that the force of the bag – which deploys at around 321 km/h (200 mph) – will push the pet into your abdomen, possibly causing human internal injuries. And pet injuries don’t necessarily have to be from a collision. Just slamming on the brakes can tumble an animal off the seat, which could result in broken limbs or lacerations. A pet that gets behind the pedals can prevent you from fully applying the brakes, even as it suffers injuries from being jammed between the pedal and the floor. And it’s not unusual for a dog to be so interested in something outside the car that he jumps out through an open window.

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