Sensible drivers buckle in themselves and their children before starting the motor. But what about their dog’s safety? Many drivers simply command their pets to jump into the backseat, the pickup’s cargo bed or even onto their laps. Lap dogs they should never be. In fact, dogs shouldn’t be anywhere near our laps when we’re driving, safety experts and pet advocates say. But many drivers ignore the safety risks and allow their dogs to roam freely in cars.
That can be a big mistake, says Dr. Kimberly May, a veterinarian since 1994 and the director of professional and public affairs at the American Veterinary Medical Association in Schaumburg, Illinois.
“Even a low-speed crash can cause injury to unrestrained dogs,” she says. “There are all kinds of prominences inside a car, so depending on what structures they hit, dogs can suffer broken ribs, broken legs or eye injuries. They can hit the windshield or be thrown outside of the car.
“A dog riding on a driver’s lap can interfere with driving, climbing down into the footwell, or otherwise distracting the driver,” May says. “In a crash, the dog could be suffocated or crushed by a deployed airbag or thrown into the windshield.”