Claire Harris, the country’s leading expert on pet transport in this article she explains why our laws need to change to protect our precious cargo of pets. Read on to find out more about how car travel safety has changed slowly over the years but now needs a new look. Plus Claire recommends her top brands for crash-tested safety harnesses and crates to keep your pooch safe in your vehicle.
When it comes to transporting pets, people tend to think about the legalities and reference The Highway Code. Highway Code rule 57 basically translates that dogs must be restrained when travelling in a vehicle.
This rule is heavily focused on ensuring your dog is not distracting you when you’re driving to minimize the risk of causing an accident. There’s no mention of cats because cats generally are in baskets, so they haven’t considered them in this rule.
A trip down memory lane
Lets just pop back to the 1930’s, this is when children’s car seats were invented. But here’s the thing…
They were introduced because they didn’t want small children distracting the driver. Sound familiar?
Ok quick history lesson: Cars have been around for over 100 years, original designs didn’t even include a steering wheel as we know it! Scary right! The maximum speed limit was just 8mph at one point!
Cars have come a long way over the years, and (thankfully) in recent years safety and risk reduction has been a hugely influenced design and now seat belts, crumple zones and air bags are built in.
Even the motorways are getting in on the act, instead of a flimsy metal barrier likely to give in an accident, they are being upgraded up and down the country with concrete barriers to reduce the risk of a vehicle going across to the other carriageway.
Since the very first introduction of children’s car seats it took 30 years before safety was considered a priority in the 1960’s. Then the 1980’s brought into play crash testing – a great leap forward in being able to actually determine what would happen in the event of an accident – which, let’s be honest, this is where we need safety equipment to perform! Since then we have seen laws introduced to depict that all children must be in appropriate safety seating and location within the vehicle based on height and weight.
Why The History Lesson?
In order to understand pet transport, we have to know the why. As we’ve seen through history the evolution of the safety of the car itself, car seats for children and even road design is a huge factor in reducing the risk.
Why? Because cars can do a lot of damage, to the people in the car, the surrounding of the car, other road users, other cars that may be involved. Accidents can and do happen on a daily basis.
Hollywood vs Reality
When we think car accidents we think big crashes, cars going fast, cars flipping on their roof, other cars crashing into them. Big pile up’s, explosions, car parts flying everywhere.
Whilst this helps create drama and suspense in a blockbuster movie, the reality is that you are 10 times more likely to crash at 30mph than at speed. Making it highly unlikely that your car will flip, explode, or create a shower of car parts all over the road.
But, and here’s the important bit, your car may well be crushed depending on the speed, what you crashed into, or if someone crashed into you and even at what appears to be a low impact, their can still be significant damage to your car and the occupants inside.
I was in a very minor accident in 2014, my car was written off, I was in pain for weeks and ended up having a long course of Chiropractic sessions to straighten my lower spine and that was 5 years later!
So although car accidents aren’t like Hollywood, they can have a lasting effect.
The Final Destination
The relevance of the history of cars and real life accidents is to get you thinking about how you transport your dog.
You put your seat belt on?
You put your child in their car seat?
But what about your dog?
They are not just a distraction like the highway code suggests. Your dog is part of your family. You would give them as much care and attention as you would yourself, your children and anyone else who travels in your car, wouldn’t you?
The Highway code isn’t enough, it focuses on distraction, no consideration for safety, no consideration has been given to what will happen to the car itself or the people occupants if an unrestrained dog is in a car in an accident.
Imagine your medium sized dog travelling on the back seat and you’re in an accident, what will happen to the dog? It is important to understand that not all pet travel equipment is created equal, and it is not a requirement for it to be crash tested.
So, are you sure that the harness will hold out as your dog becomes a projectile (think force=mass x acceleration)? Or if your dog is in the boot and you don’t have a dog guard (sadly it isn’t currently law to have a dog guard)?
What do you think is going to happen to the dog in an accident? Not likely to stay neatly in the boot are they – even if the impact does not force them from a boot, a stressed and scared dog is not going to sit nicely in the boot waiting for someone to come and get it.
This is where I come in, to educate people, firstly with the history so people understand how bad road safety used to be and how over time, we worked out the problems and now cars are safer than ever. Remember the Clunk Click campaign? I wasn’t even alive then and I’ve still heard of it! That was the power behind that campaign.
The right tool for the job
So how do you make sure your dog is the safest they could be?
Lightbulb moment: You use crash tested equipment. That’s it, that’s the answer. After all my waffling about children’s car seats and seat belt history. The answer is simply: use crash tested equipment.
Ok I made this sound simple and it more or less is, there’s various crash tested equipment out there.
Best Crash-Tested Pet Travel Safety Gear
Here’s my round up of not just what equipment but also where to transport the dog:
Small- medium sized dogs
- Crash tested harness for use on the back seat: Ruffwear, Sleepy Pod, Ezy Dog, Easy Rider and Kurgo. These currently are the only crash tested harnesses on the market
- Crash tested crate in the boot- TransK9- they have a handy escape hatch out the back, great if you have the boot space
- Avoid transporting dogs on the front seat, this can invalidate your insurance in the event of an accident
Here’s our recommendations, only the ones I have mentioned are crash tested, don’t let ‘safety tested’ fool you if you’re looking at others.
Medium- extra large size dogs
- Boot with a dog guard and tail gate – Travall have some really affordable options
Unfortunately there currently isn’t a lot on the market for tiny breeds, the smallest crash tested car harness is the Kurgo.
Using these recommended crash tested items you are covering off; distraction, safety and wellbeing which is very important, a dog should be able to comfortably stand up and lay down.
As the country’s leading expert on pet transport, I’ve made it my mission to change the law (as you’ve seen above it takes so long I might not be alive to see it!) on transporting pets. All pets should be transported using crash tested equipment. Like children’s car seats. Let’s face it a dog can weigh as much as a fully grown man! I certainly wouldn’t want a fully grown man thrown into the back of my on top of the impact from a crash!
Currently there hasn’t been any research on transporting pets, no tests, no evidence, no one checking to see how bad a dog is going to be injured if they are restrained with a non crash tested dog seat belts.
No one checking just how bad the people will be injured if a large breed dog is loose in a car. No one checking if the dog may actually be thrown from the car potentially causing further accidents.
In over 100 years, no one has ever thought, what happens when we put the family dog in the car? Yet, with industries dedicating to encouraging us to spend more time with our beloved pets, the number of people transporting their dog for recreation is growing exponentially.
Even the crash tested equipment that’s currently on the market, this has been crash tested yes, but how much research has been done on the suitability? And for the different breeds? And body shape of the different breeds? I have 2 small dogs of the same breed and they are completely different ends of small and completely different body shapes. Just like with humans, a small isn’t just a small.
My mission is to undertake the biggest research project on pet transport this world has ever seen, and use my own expertise, with the help of other experts such as crash experts and vets. To design and manufacture my own crash tested dog transport equipment.
Stay Safe and Keep Watching
Now you know how to transport your dog, and where in the car is the safest place. Its well worth investing in the right equipment for your dog.
Please share this with your friends and family who have dogs and join us next year on July 1st for Pet Travel Safety Day – an awareness day created to raise awareness about the importance of transporting pets correctly.
Together we can save the lives of dogs and make a difference.
About Claire Harris
Claire Harris founder of Pets 2 Places, the UK’s first pet taxi franchise is the country’s leading expert on pet transport. Starting the service in her home town of Milton Keynes.
Claire Harris age 43 started Pets 2 Places in 2014, helping take pets and their owners to the vets, groomers and kennels, or anywhere else they need to go, even on holiday
Claire has achieved many accolades such as Women Leader of the Year for starting her own company despite many challenges. Was invited to the House of Lords to celebrate on National Women’s Day for her contribution not just her community through her work, but her involvement in charity work.
Claire has gained many awards for Pets 2 Places including Best Pet Business of the Year 2019 and finalist at the Encouraging Women Into Franchising (EWIF) awards sponsored by Natwest.