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Stephen King, Most Famous Victim
Horror stories come true when people don’t secure dogs in cars.
Don't let Spot hang out the window!

Last week in Verona, Wis., a Boy Scout troop leader and one young Scout were killed when a motorhome crossed the median and hit their SUV. The 62-year-old motorhome driver was distracted when his dog jumped into his lap.

Ten years ago, Stephen King was hit and severely injured by a minivan because driver Bryan E. Smith was distracted by his loose Rottweiler. Smith was charged with aggravated assault and driving to endanger. He pled guilty to a misdemeanor and was only sentenced to six months probation.

If these two scary incidents don’t inspire you to buckle up your pup, what about your dog’s safety? I belong to several dog-related and agility email lists and every year, there are horrific stories about people getting into accidents either on their way to or from a show or other dog activity. If the dogs are not secured, they are thrown out of the vehicle. If they survive the impact, they are traumatized and very difficult to catch. In some cases, the dog guards his owner, impeding help from passersby, police and medical personnel.

My minivan is outfitted with two large wire crates permanently placed in the back and a bench seat where I can harness my other dogs to seat belts. Do you secure your dog in your car? If yes, how? If not, why not?


Julia Kamysz Lane, owner of Spot On K9 Sports and contributing editor at The Bark, is the author of multiple New Orleans travel guides, including Frommer’s New Orleans Day by Day (3rd Edition). Her work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Poets and Writers and Publishers Weekly.



CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by Kathleen | July 9 2009 |

My miniature poodle, Willow, is strapped into the back seat of our car when she goes for a ride. She has a special strap that locks into the seatbelt system in the car and then attaches to her red travel harness. It allows her to run around the back seat, sit where she can lay her head next to my arm on the console, and even look out the window all while keeping her securly in place. It even makes the whole process more enjoyable for her because when we get out her "travelling clothes" she knows she gets to go for a ride.

Submitted by Lorraine | July 12 2009 |

where did you purchase this or do you remember the name? It sounds like something that might work for my dog.

Submitted by Gina | July 10 2009 |

A few years ago I purchased dog seatbelts and was so lazy I never even opened the boxes and eventually returned them.

About a year and a half ago one of my "dog friends" lost her boxer in a horrible car accident. Her beautiful girl was thrown through the windshield and never had a chance.

Needless to say, that rocked my view of doggie seatbelts as an inconvenience. Now my 3 dogs don't go anywhere without being buckled up. I can't believe I didn't always go through this protocol. It takes a few minutes to get everyone strapped in, but there safety is worth it!

Submitted by Anonymous | July 10 2009 |

Oh my goodness, I just realized I submitted my post a million times because I didn't realize it was moderated and thought something was wrong with my browser, sorry!

Submitted by erin | July 12 2009 |

I secure my dog in a harness whenever we go for a drive together. I do this out of respect and the safety of other drivers on the road, but most importantly, for the safety of my dog. To not harness Milo would be selfish and if anything ever happened to him due to my neglience, I would feel incredibly guilty. We owe it to our dogs to provide the best care possible and that includes being a responsible pet guardian and ensuring their safety in cars!
I have also heard rumored that certain states are working on making it a requirement to have pets secure in moving vehicles.

Submitted by Lorraine | July 12 2009 |

Maybe you can give me some advice. I don't own a car, so securing a crate in the back of a rented car is simply not feasible.
I have, in the past, purchased and used seatbelt harnesses designed for pets, but Tiger (a 25-pound terrier mix) has chewed his way through three of them - and one seat belt. I now use bitter apple on the seat belts, so he leaves those alone, but the harnesses -- no such luck. The last one I put on him he had chewed through before we even left the rental place.
I hate spending an additional 20-odd bucks every time I get in the car with him -- and then not have the harness survive 2 miles. On the other hand, if I don't restrain him, he generally curls up on the floor behind me and goes to sleep and has NEVER interfered with my driving. But if I could find a reliable way, I would use it....
Any ideas?

Submitted by JoAnna | July 12 2009 |

Lorraine - I wonder if you can buy a soft crate for driving in a rental car. You can attach it to the seat belt or some other fixture on the car with bungee cords. The soft crates are pretty portable -- the less sturdier pop up crates (sold by Target and CleanRun.com) break down to be very small:


Not as safe as a hard crate or harness, but at least your dog would be somewhat restrained. He might also settle more in a crate versus resorting to chewing a harness.

I have a crate in my hatchback but I'm always worried about being rear ended. I do also have a harness that I use if I need the storage space in the back of the car.


Submitted by Gina | July 12 2009 |


You can purchase a pet seatbelt at almost any pet supplies store. Usually it's some sort of harness (some better quality then others) and a strap that attaches to the harness on one end, and either snaps directly into your seatbelt clip or hooks onto the seatbelt itself.

I found one online and and then recently upgraded to a one that's nicely padded that I found at my local Petsmart.

Submitted by Carolyn | July 17 2009 |

I have a soft carrier with seat belt attachments. I always use it. My dog is perfectly happy to snooze while we drive. I am happy not to have to worry about her if we come to a sudden stop. In contrast, my brother's 2 wonderful border collies are great travellers but ALL OVER in the car. I love them, but they sure are a pain to go anywhere with. My sister-in-law has a Subaru Forester with a dog net partition in back -- which she doesn't use since she says they "like" being in front. They are otherwise safety conscious people but really have a blind spot about constraining their dogs during travel. Sigh.

Submitted by Denise | July 17 2009 |

Yes, I buckle my baby girls up. They all have seatbelt harnesses. I decided to purchase seatbelts for my dogs shortly after adopting the first two. They love to sit in my lap when I drive, which is not safe for me, my dogs, or other drivers. It's hard enough to drive with a dog in your lap, let alone 2 while driving a stick shift. The seatbelts keep the dachshunds in the back seat and keeps my pitbull from trying to lick me. They also keep the girls on the seats during a hard stop. They still have the freedom to sit, stand, or lie down. Overall, we are all pleased with our doggie seatbelts!

Submitted by Tracy | July 20 2009 |

I was recently in a rollover car accident in my Element and the first thing that popped into my head as I was hanging from my seat belt was thank God I didn't have my dogs with me. They had always traveled untethered and while I felt a bit guilty about it I never took action.

When my car flipped all the windows broke out - my dogs would never have had a chance. That thought still haunts me.

After a bit of research we decided to go with a harness called a Roadie. You can check them out on www.ruffrider.com. I was considering a crate system but then read part of a report by an insurance company on crated dogs in car crashes and the result wasn't a great one. For me, the seatbelts saved my life, I think the harness-seat belt system will do the same for my dogs.

Submitted by Lana | July 26 2009 |

I always use a seatbelt harness. They are easy to use and come in all sizes. I like the ones available from RC Pet Products - ask your local pet store to go online and order one for you. They are reasonable priced, breatheable and secure very easily.

Submitted by Sadie | July 26 2009 |

My dog has her own harness seatbelt for my car. I'd had one when she was a puppy because she used to try and crawl into my lap but when she out grew it and stopped moving around in the car I never got around to getting a new one. But then one of my friends got rear ended with his dog just moments after he had bought a new seat harness for his lab puppy. Apparently had he not had the seat belt on his dog would likely have gone right through the windshield. So after that I went right out and got one for my dog.

Submitted by Eileen | July 26 2009 |

I always belt up my two dogs in the back seat. I hope all dog owners secure their dogs and definitely do not put them in the front seat!!

Also make sure you have the right size seatbelt harness, because a loose one can slip off when the dog tries to readjust his/her position.

Giving your dog a good long tiring walk before traveling will also calm them down more, and they will be apt to accept the confinement...which IS meant for your and their safety!!

On long trips, take frequent breaks. Also, don't let your dog stick his/her head out the window...something could fly into his/her eye...and a quick stop could cause serious injury. Still, it is important to keep the inside ventilation comfortable, because dogs will experience the heat faster than we will.

Lastly, never drive with dogs in the back of an open truck!!

Submitted by karlos maze | June 27 2011 |

In some cases, the dog guards his owner, impeding help from passersby, police and medical personnel.Paper Shredderyour post amazing and full of good ideas.it was interesting and useful if you have more detail on this topic kindly share here.

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