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Why Dogs Should Be Restrained In Vehicles
It May Be The Law Where You Live
Driving along a busy suburban road recently, I was a couple of vehicles behind a pick-up truck with what appeared to be an unrestrained dog in the bed (unrelated to the picture at right). The driver made a fairly sharp left hand turn which caused the dog to crash against the side of the truck.
It's likely that a taller dog would have tumbled out of the truck. Even if he had been tied in, it would have resulted in a hanging episode that could have proved fatal. The fact is, having the dog tied-up in the back of a pick-up may or may not comply with the law in your area.
In many states, including Massachusetts, New Hampshire, California, Maine, Oregon, Washington, Florida and Rhode Island, dogs must be cross-tethered in the backs of pick-up trucks, which means that tie lines from the dog's collar or harness must be attached to both sides of the truck. Truck tie-outs, which accomplish that, can be purchased wherever you buy pet supplies.
Dogs falling, or jumping, from the backs of moving trucks receive horrendous injuries that frequently result in death. Those that do survive suffer head injuries, fractures, severe abrasions, or degloving injuries, in which skin and muscle are torn from the bone.
Recovery, when it is an option, is slow, painful, and not always complete. Quite often the injuries are so severe that the only humane choice is euthanasia.
Dogs riding in the backs of trucks, or in cars and with their heads hanging out of a window, are subject to other types of injuries, too.
A common one is imbedded foreign bodies. Particles of sand or other debris, traveling at high speeds because of the forward motion of the car, become imbedded in eyes, nasal passages, tongues and mouths.
A less common one is the head smacking against the outside mirror on a parked car, or another object.
We’ve all seen people driving with their dog in their lap. Fun to do, but really not a good idea.
Inside the car, an unrestrained dog is a safety hazard.
Moving about, the dog can block vision, restrict steering ability, and interfere with the driver working the foot pedals.
If he sees another dog, a cyclist or something else that triggers an aggressive or fear response, he can go ballistic in the car and cause serious problems for the driver.
Some states have laws that expressly prohibit unrestrained dogs in cars while other states use a catch-all provision that prohibits anything in or on the vehicle that "may interfere with or impede the proper operation of the vehicle."
All this doesn't mean you have to leave the dog at home when you run out to do errands or go on a trip. It does mean that you need to properly restrain him.
And bring his leash along so that you don't have to leave him in the car while you run to the ATM machine. It doesn't have to be a blazing hot summer day for a dog to overheat or at least experience discomfort in a parked car, even on a warm day.
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Pet supply stores, some veterinarians, even some trainers and groomers sell pet restraint devices that work in conjunction with your car's seat belts. They allow the dog to sit up or lie down, but restrict his mobility.
If you have a station wagon or SUV, you can buy barriers designed specifically for those types of vehicles. They consist of wire grids with adjustable horizontal and vertical bars that lock against the floor, ceiling and side walls of the cargo area of the vehicle. You can even buy an extension that attach to the bottom of the barrier. It enables you to fold down the seat back and it will prevent your dog from crawling under the barrier.
Another option is to use a crate or carrier in the cargo area. A crate is a box with wire grid floor, ceiling and sides; a carrier is a solid sided, molded plastic box with a wire mesh door and vent holes in the sides and sometimes the back.
A carrier should only be used on errand runs or other short trips, though. With limited ventilation and visibility, a long trip could be uncomfortable for the dog and might create an aversion that would cause him to resist going into the carrier for trips to the vet, etc.
There are some really nice crates available that are collapsible. They're built in one piece and fold-up like a suitcase for easy carrying and storage. And dogs, being natural denning animals, generally accept crating quite readily.
For many dogs, all you have to say is, "Wanna go for a ride?" and they're beside themselves with excitement.
They love being with you, they love being in the car, but you've got to think of safety.
For you, the dog, pedestrians and other drivers, it would be a good idea to familiarize yourself, and comply, with the laws in your area.