Are Dog Seatbelts Actually Safe?

When it comes to our children and friends, safety is one of the most important things. We buy car seats, ensure seatbelts are being properly, and take extra care in driving when we are responsible for the lives of others. We want our pets to be just as safe, but there is a lot of information out there that contradicts itself. There are plenty of devices that you can buy to keep your pet safe, but they aren’t regulated by the NHTSA. Because of that, they may not be as safe as they might seem, and that includes something that seems like an obvious car safety solution: a seatbelt for your dog.

Dog seatbelts

Dog seatbelts can vary in style depending on what brand and type you buy. It can also make a big difference depending on what size dog you have as well and how rambunctious they are in the car. Most dog seatbelts faster directly to the car’s OEM seatbelt harness and are easy to install and remove. They can be incredibly helpful in keeping your pet in their seat, but if misused, they can also be very dangerous.

A small dog on a road trip looks out the open passenger side car window
A dog looks at a traffic light from the open passenger window of a car | Peter Kneffel/picture alliance via Getty Images

Using the correct equipment

We don’t like to think about the worst happening, but the best way to keep our pets safe is to think ahead. The pet seatbelt can be a useful tool for keeping your pet safe in case of an accident for several reasons. For one, if you are in an accident, your pet may panic and jump out of the window. For another, it keeps them in place if your car comes screeching to a halt.

In either case, it is important to recognize what a seatbelt does for people as well as animals. It works as a harness to keep us in place, but it does exert some force on our bodies. That is why using our seatbelts correctly by ensuring they cross our bodies at appropriate locations is just as important as using them. For animals, a seatbelt can be helpful if it is attached to a harness that allows the force to be distributed over the animal’s chest rather. If used with a collar alone, that force is exerted directly on their throat and neck, which can be harmful, and in more dire situations, deadly.

Big dogs need bigger pickup trucks | Getty
Big dogs need bigger pickup trucks | Getty

Don’t let your dogs wander

The most common practice for traveling with dogs seems to be to allow the dog to wander about the car freely. This is dangerous for several different reasons and is something that should only be done in case of an emergency when there is no alternative. In case of an accident, there is no way your dog can be safely secured, which is the same reason people need seatbelts. While the car may be slamming to a stop at any speed, the seatbelt slows our body down; otherwise, it would continue moving forward, which could be incredibly dangerous.

A dog waits in a car in Turin, Italy. “Homeless not Dogless” is an NGO association which help dogs of the homeless and people suffering with Coronavirus (COVID-19)Stefano Guidi, Getty Images

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Not securing your dog properly can also pose a threat to passengers in your car. A dog running around the back seats could bump into rear-seat passengers, and in the front seat could even cause an accident. To keep ourselves and our furry family members safe, using a proper dog restraint is important, and much like a seatbelt, you probably don’t realize just how crucial they are until you really need them.