For years my big dogs rode “loose” in a car.  They usually curled up on the back seat or floor. However, when my young Jack Russell started to climb all around the car, including under the pedals, she ended up riding in a crate. Until then I had not even given any thought to her being a projectile if I stopped short.

Then an agility friend rolled her van. She was driving a conversion van travelling home late one night in the beginning of March. There were 3 humans and 10 dogs on board, all but 2 were crated. They were traveling through the Poconos, when they were hit with a wind shear while on black ice. The van fishtailed out of control, spun into a snowbank and flipped over.  On the way down the embankment the van rolled 3 times and came to rest on the driver’s side. The dogs tumbled in their crates. None of the dogs had obvious injuries and passed vet checks the next day. However, within a year Pandora, a Boston Terrier, lost her vision due to a vitreous prolapsed (likely caused by a sharp blow to her head). One of the BC’s, Tiara, went deaf and another BC never seemed quite right after that. Those were the two dogs not in crates.

My friend waged a campaign to ensure the safety of her friends’ dogs: CRATES needed to be bolted in place. Bungees are not recommended because the force of impact will usually cause them to pop free.  Commercial eye bolts were mounted on the platform in my van and the crates were strapped down.  But many of my friends are procrastinators.

Then it happened to me, I rolled my van before I bolted down my new puppy’s crate. My other two dogs were in the secured crate. The puppy’s crate had been bungeed in place but that did not stop it from being flung from the platform and bounced around the van.  Luckily only his ear was bruised. It did change his disposition though.  Until this time, he woke up every morning with a happy noise that sounded like “narg”.  On occasions, when he is truly happy and comfortable with life, he will “narg” but it is no longer every morning…

I hope that you are never in a car accident with or without your pets in the car. But there are some precautions you can take.

  1. Restrain your pet in a crate that is bolted in place; put your pet in a safety harness; or use an animal barrier to prevent them from being projectiles, climbing under the pedals or into the driver’s lap (a dangerous distraction).
  2. Keep your dog in the back of the vehicle. Due to the possibility of an air bag being discharged, dogs should not ride in the front seat even if they are in a safety harness.
  3. Keep your pet inside of the vehicle. It is dangerous for dogs to ride in convertibles, the open bed of pickups or ride with their heads out of a window due to the chance of eye or ear injury.  Eyes and ears can easily be damaged by things flying into them from grit to insects that sting. The impact due to velocity of the car will only magnify the damage.
  4. Dogs have been known to jump out of windows as well as getting their necks caught in a closing window (this can be very damaging to windpipes) so make sure they cannot step on the electric window button.
  5. Carry a first aid kit for emergency along with extra leashes.  
  6. Make sure your dog is wearing a collar with either a phone number woven into it or has an ID tag attached.  Tattoos (less common nowadays) or microchips can help identify a dog if it happens to get away from you. 
  7. Have an emergency card for each dog in the vehicle. It should be up to date.  It can be laminated to help it last. 

Drive safely and may the road be with you.

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