We went to the shop in the evening, just to get a few groceries. We decided not to seatbelt the dogs in because we weren’t going far. On the way home, a car lost control and rammed us, spinning us off the road into trees. I managed to grab one dog, not the other. They weren’t wearing their seatbelts. When the spinning stopped, the car fumes started and so did the screaming. We were 3 blocks from home. My dog was standing, looking at me, wide-eyed and screaming. He was panicking. He was sore, but thankfully nothing was broken. That night, he couldn’t sleep by himself, he would just lay awake and cry if we left him. We made him an extra comfy bed of his own so he could sleep with us. It was weeks before we put him back into the car. Now we use our seatbelts all the time, every time. Why didn’t I use the seatbelt that night? I’d become complacent. Maybe a bad dog owner. We weren’t going far or fast so I thought it’d be fine. I never thought someone would lose control so close to home and crash into us, sending us spinning off the road into a line of trees.
This story is not to scare anyone, but to tell the truth of what happened to us earlier this year. It wasn’t nice, but we were lucky. I felt guilty for not using their seat belts for a long time. I love my dogs and my complacency let them down that night. I want to give others the opportunity to know that seatbelts are available for their dogs. That a lot of harnesses sold as ‘car restraints’ aren’t crash tested and in fact, won’t hold your dog in a car accident. Crash testing in the US, showed some ‘car restraint harnesses’ couldn’t even hold the weight of the dog, never mind the dog’s weight when force like a car accident was applied. At the time I purchased my seatbelts there were only three crash tested options available in NZ. Ruffwear was one of them. You can see more about the Ruffwear load up harness crash testing here and their decision making process for this harness. There were multiple stages to the testing. It didn’t pass the final criteria, but this explains why: https://blog.ruffwear.com/2015/01/29/ruffwear-load-up-harness-faqs/ If you want to learn more about crash testing, simply google: crash test dog harness and you will find a lot of information as there are various centres around the world crash testing products.
Is a seatbelt the right decision for you? It may not be. You may be better to have a cargo restraint barrier or crash tested crate if your dog(s) travel in the back of a station wagon or SUV. I just want people to take a moment and think about their dog’s safety when travelling in the car with them before the holiday season starts. For us, seat belts work well and our dogs have accepted them. They sit or lie down and happily look out the window when we’re driving through towns. One dog took a little longer than the other to be happy wearing it, but now they see their Load up dog harnesses and get excited. They know they’re going in the car for an adventure somewhere! Sometimes just out for groceries, but this time with their seatbelts on.