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Strap ‘em in
by Jessica Carner,
Sep 21, 2011 | 2421 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Tribune/John Byrne Paco, a 4-year-old chihuahua that weighs in at 3.5 pounds, stays safe while riding in the car by wearing his extra small “Easy Rider” safety harness. Various manufacturers make similar products that range in price from $10 to $30. It is recommended that pets ride in the back seat.
SPARKS — You likely wouldn’t allow your children to bounce around the car while driving, so why do so many people let their pets roam freely in the cab of a vehicle?

Transporting a pet or a child unrestrained in a vehicle poses a danger for the driver and everyone on the road. Unrestrained pets serve as a distraction to drivers, and in the event of an accident, pets are more likely to be injured or killed if they are not restrained.

According to an online survey conducted by the American Automobile Association (AAA) and Kurgo, a manufacturer of pet travel products, out of 1,000 respondents, only 17 percent said they use a pet restraint while transporting their animal in the car.

While only 17 percent of pet owners surveyed said they use restraints, more than 83 percent acknowledged it is unsafe to allow pets to roam freely in vehicles.

“Restraining your pet when driving can not only help protect your pet, but you and other passengers in your vehicle as well,” cautioned Jennifer Huebner-Davidson, AAA National, Traffic Safety Programs manager. “An unrestrained 10-pound dog in a crash at 50 mph will exert roughly 500 pounds of pressure, while an unrestrained 80-pound dog in a crash at only 30 mph will exert 2,400 pounds of pressure. Imagine the devastation that can cause to your pet and anyone in the vehicle in its path.”

“Thirty-one percent of respondents admit to being distracted by their dog while driving,” a report on the AAA website,, states. “However, 59 percent have participated in at least one distracting behavior while driving with their dog. More than half (55 percent) have pet their dog while driving, and one in five allowed their dog to sit in their lap (21 percent).”

Surveyed drivers also admitted to giving food and water to their dog, playing with their dog and taking photos of their dog with their cell phone while driving. AAA says these behaviors increase the risk of a crash.

“The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that looking away from the road for only two seconds doubles your risk of being in a crash,” the website states.

The Sparks Tribune spoke with several pet owners in the Reno-Sparks area to get a feel for what is happening with local pet owners.

“My dog is pretty good,” one woman, who declined to give her name, said. “She just lays on the seat, except when I slow down. Then she tries to get up on the console.”

Jack and Peg Shiner of Reno said they don’t think it is safe to take their dog, So, a 5-year-old Chorkie, in the car unless a passenger is available to restrain the dog.

“We only take her if someone is there to hold her,” Peg said.

A number of products are on the market to keep pets safe while riding in a vehicle, including safety harnesses that attach to seatbelts, booster seats and pet barriers. The products range in price from $10 to about $50 and can be purchased at stores such as PetSmart and PETCO, as well as locally-owned pet stores and online.

“They even sell these at Walmart,” a woman, who declined to give her name, said of pet restraints for seatbelts.

“I think it’s a fantastic idea,” Caitlin, a PetSmart employee in Spanish Springs, said of using a safety harness on a dog in a car.

Eric, another PetSmart employee, said all equipment for vehicles has a 2-month return policy as long as the purchaser has a receipt.

“We don’t know what pets and pet parents are going to like,” Eric said, so we offer returns so customers can feel comfortable trying out the product. “The equipment can be returned or exchanged, and that information can be found on the back of all our receipts.”

PETCO has a similar policy for returns on purchases. Items can be returned or exchanged within 45 days of purchase.

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Strap ‘em in by Jessica Carner,

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