Putting pet car safety first: TripsWithPets poll reveals the method of choice for securing pets in vehicles

Pet parents are on the move with their furkids more than ever before. Fortunately, they’re also taking pet safety behind the wheel more seriously. We recently asked a group of pet parents about their preferences for securing their pets on car rides, and we’re happy to say that the wide majority of people we polled do put in the time and effort to make sure their pets are safe, comfortable, and happy travelers.

It’s important to note that there are expert safety recommendations for the best options for pet safety restraints. Michael Leung, co-founder and lead product designer of Sleepypod, a pet bed and safety restraint manufacturer, suggests a weight-based guideline. “We’ve done extensive, rigorous internal and independent crash testing research,” he notes. “Our findings have led us to recommend a crash-tested carrier for cats and dogs less than 18 lbs. For dogs 18 lbs and over, a crash-tested car harness is the safer choice.”

The poll results are in and they are promising! Here’s how our 645 poll respondents are securing their pets.

Pet safety belts

Leung’s recommendations are also good news, as 38 percent of those we polled secure their pets with a pet safety belt/harness, making it the number one choice among our respondents. Pet safety belts consist of specialized tethers and harnesses. The tether connects to the harness and to the car itself, firmly securing the pet in place. Safety belt tethers can be purchased for existing harnesses, or belts and harnesses can be purchased as a set.

Safety belts are typically designed to work with the car’s seat belt or head rest, although some models attach to the car’s latch bar instead. There are many safety belt options available, from zipline tethers that allow pets to move safely back and forth across seats, to bungee designs that offer a little extra flexibility, to chew-proof metal cables.

The Sleepypod Clickit Sport Car Harness is a popular safety belt option for larger pets. It features a specialized harness that allows you to use the car seat belt in place of a tether, as well as a buckle shield that prevents accidental opening.

Whatever belt you choose, make sure that it works with your car’s make and model and is properly sized for your pet. It’s also important to note that belts should be attached to harnesses and not to your pet’s collar, so if you don’t purchase a tether/harness set, you will need to buy a harness separately if you don’t already have one.

Pet car seats

Twenty percent of our poll respondents noted that they use a pet car seat with a tether, and it’s easy to see why. This is a cozy way for pets to travel! Pet car seats are pretty much exactly what they sound like – car seats that are exclusively made for pets. They typically feature straps that secure them to the actual car seat, as well as a tether that attaches to your pet’s harness to keep your pet in place.  

Pet car seats are available in a wide range of sizes and options. Some are plush and soft, making them ideal for long drives or comfortable trips around town; others are lightweight, waterproof, and easy to clean – perfect for rugged, adventurous pets that like to get their paws a bit muddy. Some pet car seats double as carriers or pet beds, and some, like the Sleepypod mobile pet bed, can be used as a car seat, a carrier, and a bed.

Vehicle pet barriers

Coming in at a close third, 18.3 percent of pet parent respondents said they use vehicle pet barriers to keep their pets secure. Pet barriers effectively create gates between seat rows and/or cargo areas to prevent pets from distracting their human parents or roaming unsafely around the car. They can be made of mesh, metal, or vinyl. Some are expandable and adjustable. Some, like the Kurgo Auto Pet Barrier, are designed to stretch across the console area. This particular model even has pockets for drinks and puppy snacks.

Travel crates/kennels

Crates were the top choice for 15.5 percent of our respondents. Traditional plastic crates are still an excellent choice for transporting pets; they’re sturdy, and their rigid construction keeps pets safe from impact or flying debris. However, there are other options to consider, including models with soft sides and doors that roll up, and models with breathable mesh sides and handles for carrying. 

Comfort and safety are important factors to keep in mind when choosing a crate. Your crate should be properly sized for your pet, with enough space for him to comfortably stand up, turn around, and lie down. Always have a pad in the crate to keep him comfortable, and always secure the crate in the car to keep it from sliding.

Hammocks + seat belts

A small number of participants – 4.4 percent, to be exact – noted that they use a pet car hammock and seat belt combo. Pet hammocks are attached to the head rests of the back seat and the front seat – creating a hammock of sorts.  It protects your car seat and keeps your pet contained while creating a safer drive for you and your pet. Combined with a pet safety belt, it’s a really great option for keeping your pet secure and comfortable.

“Lay and pray”

Of all our respondents, 3.8 percent are still not securing their pets in their vehicles. The temptation to forego security devices is understandable: pet parents want their furkids to have freedom and enjoy the ride. However, the risks posed by unsecured pets are very real. Pets can distract drivers. They can jump out of open windows, or run off when the door is opened. 

They can also be injured or killed if they’re thrown from the vehicle. Even a minor crash can send an unsecured pet flying through the car, where he can be injured, or injure other passengers as a projectile. We strongly recommend securing your pet in the car. It’s a simple measure that can save lives. Your pet will still love the ride, and your company, and you can enjoy the journey knowing that he’s safe.

The takeaway

No matter what option you choose, make sure it’s vetted for safety. The extra effort is well worth it. As Michael Leung put it, “A well-designed product can help make travel with a pet easier and less stressful. Safety-tested and multifunctional products bring peace of mind on the road, when there are so many unpredictable variables.”

About TripsWithPets

We love our customers and we love what we do! We’ve been helping pet parents travel with their furkids for over 10 years. With over 35,000 pet-friendly accommodations across the United States and Canada, we provide pet travelers with a wide variety of pet-friendly options.

When planning a trip, pet parents go to TripsWithPets for all they need to find and book the perfect place to stay with their pet – including detailed, up-to-date information on hotel pet policies and pet amenities. Helping pet parents plan trips with their pets is what we do!

We are also passionate animal advocates. We support local and national 501(c)(3) animal welfare organizations by raising much needed funds through our annual Partners for Animal Welfare Series (PAWS).  

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