We've all seen them, the drivers dawdling along distractedly, and as we go around to pass them, notice a small dog either sitting in the owner's lap, or scurrying excitedly around the passenger compartment, and sticking its head out the window. Perhaps you're that person who likes the cuddly companionship of your pet while you're driving. Although driving with your pet in your lap may seem trendy and cute, it's very dangerous for the both of you, and experts discourage the practice.

The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recommends a crate for long-distance travel, and a harness for short trips. Gordie Spater, president of the popular pet product company Kurgo, also discourages the practice of dogs riding unrestrained. "Dogs riding in the laps of drivers is becoming more commonplace, as more people bring their dogs with them around town and on longer trips. This is a distraction, just like texting, and has the potential for multiple negative outcomes. First, the dog can cause an accident. Second, in an accident, the airbag will go off at about 200 mph which can easily injure a small dog even in a low-speed accident which humans would easily survive. Finally, in an accident, an unrestrained dog can be thrown with force and even be ejected from the vehicle. These problems are easy to avoid with a harness or booster seat, which will improve the quality of the trip for the dog and the owner."

Lisa-Marie Mulkern, Marketing and Communications Director for HandicappedPets.com, an online retailer that specializes in products for special-needs pets, says many of the company's customers are the result of unrestrained pets riding in the car. "Sadly, HandicappedPets.com does have customers whose dogs are now using the Walkin' Wheels dog wheelchair as a result of paralyzing injuries sustained in car accidents while riding unrestrained. An unrestrained dog in a vehicle can become a danger to itself and to the other occupants."

Mulkern said proper restraint mechanisms can also help in a post-accident situation by preventing dogs from running away from the scene and becoming a traffic hazard to passing cars. "By using a pet seatbelt, an owner can prevent a dog from becoming a distraction that could result in a collision. Also, if an accident were to occur, the dog would not become a projectile that could injure itself or others in the vehicle. A dog wearing a seat belt will not be able to flee in fear or to respond aggressively to emergency personnel when they arrive on scene," Mulkern said.

Fortunately, there are some products on the market that can let small (and large) dogs enjoy riding in the car safely, while being able to see out the window and be close to their owners.

Some basic tips for longer trips is to acclimate your pet to traveling by taking a series of short, then longer rides secured by a harness or in a travel crate to reduce stress and anxiety when it's time for the full trip. Be sure to have plenty of water on hand, preferably bottled water or bottled tap water from home. Water from a different source from what the pet is accustomed to could cause digestive issues for him. The ASPCA also recommends a sub-dermal microchip implanted for identification, as well as a permanent collar with contact information and a temporary travel tag with cell-phone and destination information if traveling away from home.


HandicappedPets.com

HandicappedPets.com offers a variety of dog-safety accessories for safe travel for special-needs and fully ambulatory pets. Its canine-safety dog seatbelt comes in four sizes and is adjustable in order to ensure your pet's comfort and proper fit to his size and proportions. Available sizes fit most dogs between 25 and 185 pounds.

The dog seatbelt is designed to slip onto your existing vehicle seatbelt to safely hold the dog. The canine seatbelt also can be used as a front-end walking harness by attaching your dog leash. The belt and harness starts at $19.95.

HandicappedPets.com
3 Bud Way, Suite 25
Nashua, NH 03063
East Coast Phone: 888-811-7387, West Coast Phone: 818-698-7387
www.handicappedpets.com


Kurgo

Inspired by a dog run, Kurgo's Auto Zip Line allows back and forth plus sit and stand movement, and provides security for unexpected driving incidents. The leash easily connects and disconnects from the zip line when entering or exiting the car, facilitating easy transition from vehicle restraint to walking lead. The Auto Zip Line can be used between any two fixed points in a vehicle. Kurgo's Skybox booster seat for smaller dogs up to 30 pounds gives them a view out the window while keeping them safely restrained and comfortable. The Zip Line with Smart Harness retails for $38, and the Skybox Booster Seat for $60.

Kurgo Products
2D Fanaras Dr.
Salisbury, MA 01952
877-847-3868
www.kurgostore.com


Snoozer Pet Products

Snoozer Pet Products offers a variety of pet car seats for smaller dogs, which allow them to have a view out the windows, but still be safely restrained to prevent distraction, injury, or accidents. For Cadillac owners, Snoozer offers a line of officially licensed Cadillac-branded pet seats designed to strap onto the center console of the brand's newer models such as the Escalade, SRX, CTS, and DTS. Snoozer pet seats are priced from $39.95 to $209.95 depending on size and model.

Snoozer Pet Products
90 Allen St.
Greenville SC, 29605
864-295-6264, 800-635-9755
www.snoozerpetproducts.com


Ruff Rider

Ruff Rider's Roadie is a unique patented harness specifically designed to withstand the high-force levels sustained in vehicle accidents, and is built to the same 5000-pound tensile strength standard as the U.S. safety requirements for seatbelts. The Roadie does not have a collar that could be a choking hazard in an accident or plastic parts that could break. The harness is pleated under the front shoulder area to prevent chafing, and the buckle and D-ring on top of the harness facilitates compatibility with a leash for walking outside the vehicle. The Roadie harness is priced from $43 to $54, depending on size.

Ruff Rider
100 Enterprise Blvd.
Pauls Valley, OK 73075
866-592-6837
www.ruffrider.com