Do dog seatbelts really work?

In 1984, New York was the first state in the United States to pass seatbelt laws, requiring all vehicle occupants to wear them or risk getting a ticket and/or fine. Maine was the last state out of the 50 to establish a law, doing so in December of 1995.

But these laws do not cover a common occupant in a car: a pet.

There are safety harnesses on the market for man’s best friend, but no official laws govern the mandatory usage of them. Are they safe? Do they actually work?

Before considering the possibility of a crash, pet owners must think about the likelihood of pets distracting them while driving. Nervous animals that may move, jump or get restless in the car can be dangerous hazards that can keep human attention off the road and on the animal. Keeping the pet restrained in some way, such as with a seatbelt, can reduce the risk of distraction.

Some sources say it may be better to restrain your pet to cut down this risk, but others warn about what may happen should the vehicle be involved in an accident.

Studies have been performed on the safety of dog harnesses, and the outcome isn’t always what the pet owner may have been intending when purchasing the item. A study in 2012 showed that four major manufacturers of dog harnesses failed under car crash tests. This may be caused, in part, by the fact that companies who make these restraints aren’t required to test them before putting them on the market.

Researchers agreed that without any restraint whatsoever, your pet may be at risk for any number of injuries. Based on their findings, they recommend that the harness industry adopt standards for harnesses to better protect the animals, but until then, one of the best options, according to the center, may be a crate.

Tucked behind the driver’s or front passenger’s seats on the floor, the crate, and your pet, can be more secure.

“If a crash occurs, the pet is protected in that little area,” said Ann Hohenhaus of the Animal Medical Center, “and the carrier can’t become a projectile.”

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