Pet Car Safety and Canine Seat Belts

Written by: Lucas Daly, Veterinary Technician


Most of us drive with our pets regularly, whether it is to the dog park, a vet appointment, or just running some errands around town. In most states it is required by law that people use vehicle safety devices (aka seat belts) to reduce the risk of serious bodily harm in the event of a collision or vehicular accident. The CDC states that “seat belts reduce serious crash-related injuries and deaths by about half.” This is great news and practice for us while on the road, but what about our canine companions that travel with us in the car?

With winter upon us here in New England, there is an increased risk of accidents and collisions due to winter travel conditions. While there are no seat belt laws for dogs, there is an increasing awareness and use of canine safety belt harnesses and restraints while traveling in the car.

What is a Canine Seat Belt?

Dog seat belts are more commonly known as dog car harnesses, which attach a full-body harness to the seat belt system in the back seat of the car. Dogs are safely and easily clipped in with a short leash. Most are customizable to the dog’s size and comfort.

Benefits of Dog Car Harnesses


First and foremost, dog car harnesses keep your dog safe. In the event of an accident, the harness and leash would minimize force on the dog’s neck, significantly reducing the risk of injury to both the dog and the driver. They also prevent dogs from falling or jumping out of the window which can cause serious injuries.

Most safety harness are crash-tested and DOT-approved, so your dog can have the same safety and security as you do with your seat belt.

A source of comfort for your dog

By securing your dog to one place with a dog car harness, your dog may feel less anxious and more secure while driving with you. It may also help with car sickness since they won’t be rocking and shifting around so much.

Minimize distracted driving

Many dogs tend to move around, fall over, or try to climb into the front seat with you while driving. This can be dangerous for the driver if it takes their eyes off the road or their hands off the wheel. By having your dog strapped in with a harness, the driver can focus on the road and not the antsy dog in the back seat.

Other Car Safety Options for Your Dog

  • Crate: A travel specific crate designed to be sturdy and padded, and sometimes strapped to the floor of the trunk of rear seat for added stability.
  • Back Seat Barrier: This barrier blocks the space between the front and back seats which prevents dogs from climbing into the front seat or tumbling forward in a crash.
  • Leash & Zip Line: Attaching to the car’s cargo hooks, this will provide security while allowing your dog to move around in the back seat.
  • Pet Car Seat: For smaller dogs or cats, a car seat designed especially for pets can keep your pet in place while still allowing them to see all the wonders racing by out the window.

The American Kennel Club has some suggestions on what to look for in both Safety Harnesses and Travel Crates. Additionally, the Center for Pet Safety has published crash test results and recommendations on safety harnesses.

Whichever method you choose, we fully support increasing safety for our clients and patients, and encourage anyone who travels by car with their pets to consider safety options for the coming winter months and beyond.

We wish you many more wonderful and safe adventures with your pets!