Does Your Dog Have to Wear a Seatbelt? (US & UK Seatbelt Law)

Does my dog have to wear a seatbelt

Statistics show that around 8 out of 10 dog owners take their pet in the car with them. What might surprise you though is that of those dog owners, a staggering 84% don’t restrain the animals safely.

So what, you might ask… but dogs are just at risk of injury as we are in cars, which is why dog seatbelt law is such an important topic to be aware of.

Does your dog have to wear a seatbelt? Your dog should wear a seatbelt according to UK dog seatbelt law. In the US, the laws differ from state to state. However, for safety reasons alone, dogs should always be restrained whilst travelling in cars.

There is no current research into how many dogs get hurt whilst travelling in cars, but it’s bound to be more than we think. After all, we know how many dog owners take their pets in their vehicles, so it stands to reason that dogs without seatbelts on are getting hurt in road traffic accidents.

But it’s not just about the dog being injured.

What’s not so well-publicized is just how dangerous an unrestrained dog in a car can be should the car be in an accident. For example, a small dog breed like a French Bulldog will be transformed into a deadly missile if the car is hit.

Why? Because the average Frenchie will be propelled at 1,120 pounds of impact force. That weight won’t just kill the dog not wearing a seatbelt but could also kill or seriously injure a human passenger.

This is all based on scientific research and the law of momentum. Here’s a quote from the CNN website.

“Traveling at just 30 miles per hour, an unrestrained 10-pound dog will exert roughly 300 pounds of pressure in an accident. A 5-pound dog or 100-pound Great Dane that’s not buckled in will become a projectile. Now, on top of whiplash, you have something hitting you or flying through the windshield.”

If that’s not enough for you to seriously consider that dogs do need seatbelts, I don’t know what is. But just to re-iterate the point that your dog should wear a seatbelt, here’s more research quoted:

“If a car crashes at a speed of 40km/h (25mp/h), an airborne dog can develop projection forces equaling 40 times its weight. For example, a German Shepherd weighing 35 kilos (77 pounds) can impact with a force of 1,400 kilos (3087 pounds). The damage this can wreak as it progresses through the cabin and, sometimes, out the front windscreen can be imagined.”

Based on this, you really should put a seatbelt on a dog, and you can buy ones for pets, for example here’s one on Amazon.

But it’s also about the following dog seatbelt where you live too, and here’s a summary

Dog seatbelt law

Do dogs have to wear seat belts in the United States?

Dogs should wear seatbelts no matter where you are in the US, but the legality will differ depending on where you are driving.

For example, in US states such as Minnesota, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, driving or transporting a dog in your vehicle who is not restrained with a seatbelt or similar harness is against the law.

You are required to secure the dog with a harness or place it in a crate so it’s not loose in your car.

Those who don’t follow dog seatbelt law in these states could have penalties on their license or even be fined up to a thousand dollars.

If you are driving in Montana, Nevada, Missouri, New York or Florida, dog seatbelt law is non-existent so it’s not illegal to travel with an un-restrained dog. However, if you then decide to cross a state line, make sure you know the law.

can dogs wear seatbelts
Dogs should wear seat belts or at least be secured in cars (https://pixabay.com/photos/dog-car-car-window-animal-vehicle-2676239/)

Do dogs have to wear seat belts in the UK?

The UK is very clear when it comes to dog seatbelt law: you should put a seatbelt on your dog when driving, or ensure the animal is restrained properly (which can include a crate).

Rule 57 of the Highway Code states:

“When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.”

Drivers could incur penalties of up to £5,000 if caught breaking dog seat belt law in the UK.

Whilst the law in the UK is very clear about your dog having to wear a seatbelt or be restrained, a surprisingly high number of drivers are not aware of this.

Research by Confused.com found that more than 60% of UK drivers didn’t know they were breaking the law if their dog wasn’t restrained, in a guard, harness, or seat belted in a car.

Does my dog have to wear a seatbelt for safety?

But let’s say you are in a state where it’s not illegal. Should your dog still wear a seat belt?

The short answer is yes, ten times yes!

Just like humans, dogs should always be secured when riding in a car. A seat belt keeps your canine friend safe and comfortable during the ride. It also ensures you and everyone else in the vehicle is safe.

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve spotted an unbelted dog inside a car during traffic, roaming from one end of the seat to the other while sticking its head outside the window, I’d be filthy rich.

It’s a popular habit among many dog owners: letting their furry friend and travel companion chill on the back or front seat with no seat belt on.

Ensuring your dog is safe while traveling should be your top priority. It doesn’t matter whether you’re taking your canine buddy for a 20 minute trip to the vet or an hours-long summer vacation — they must be restrained to a seatbelt every time they ride in the car.

The best way to restrain your dog in the car

A dog in transit is much safer and more comfortable in a dog car harness. A harness is more like a “ padded vest” or a belt with adjustable straps designed to go over your dog’s chest area, as you can see in this video.

The safest spot for your dog in the car

A typical harness often has a strap or specific opening for you to easily clip it to the car’s seat belt. With a harness on, your dog will be firmly (yet comfortably) belted on the seat.

A dog seat belt harness (like this on Amazon) provides maximum restraint because it reduces the likelihood of your dog being thrown around in case of a sudden stop or when you’re maneuvering sharp bends.

You need to buckle up your furry friend in the backseat, not the front seat. That’s a huge no-no.

And there’s one major reason for this.

Even if your dog has their seat belt harness on while riding in the front seat, they are at greater risk of getting hurt when the airbags go off should an accident happen. Airbags are only suited for human adults, not our canine companions.

If your canine friend is chilling in the front and an accident occurs, the airbag’s impact can cause serious damages to them. Or worse, kill them. A seatbelt can’t protect them from the impact.

I know it may seem dang cute to pet your belted dog on the co-driver seat, but as cliché as it may sound, better safe than sorry!

Reasons why your dog should always have a seatbelt on

Buckling up your dog whenever you set out on a journey is necessary. Let’s see why:

1. Accidents do happen

Seat belts aren’t just life savers for humans. They offer life-saving protection to our canine companions, too. Hundreds of dogs get seriously injured or even die in car accidents each year because many dog parents aren’t keen on safety during traveling.

Having an unrestrained dog in the car is a recipe for disaster. There’s research to back this up.

An organization that encourages pet owners to embrace safety when traveling with their pets, Paws to Click, did a study on the dangers of not securing a dog on a seat belt during travel.

Here’s what their findings had to say.

If you’re driving at only 30 MPH with an unbelted dog weighing roughly 75 pounds, and an accident happens, the dog will exert a whopping 2,250 pounds of force on anything it hits inside the car!

Too much math? I’ll make it simpler. This amount of force is similar to the impact of being kicked by a small horse in the chest.

Let that sink in for a moment.

No doubt, your dog will end up seriously hurt. Also, remember that an unbuckled dog can be thrown around and hit other passengers in the car during an accident.

Imagine how it will be for you if your canine friend weighs over 75 pounds and lands on you during a terrible accident. Tragic!

2. Unrestrained dog equals distracted driving

If you let your canine friend ride in the car without their seat belt harness on, you’re giving them the freedom to jump on your lap while you’re driving, recklessly move from one spot of the vehicle to another and do a bunch of other naughty stuff.

That means you’ll find yourself side glancing at them after every two minutes to give commands and keep them on their best behavior.

If they sit on your lap, you’ll be tempted to take your eyes off the road for a few seconds as you pet them. And before you know it, you’ve missed a stop sign or caused a minor accident because of the distraction.

Having your unbuckled furry friend near your steering can land you in legal problems. While there are the laws I discussed earlier that are designed to protect the safety of dogs in moving vehicles, most of these laws lean towards distracted driving.

In other words, most states consider traveling with an unrestrained dog a violation of the distracted driving laws. That’s because you’re creating an unsafe situation for yourself and other road users.

However, states like New Jersey are stricter. Traveling with a pet that isn’t belted or not in a crate is considered an animal cruelty offense. You’ll be charged if a cop pulls you over and finds your furry friend on the back seat, unbuckled.

3. Your dog’s comfort matters

Ensuring your dog has a seat belt on will keep them comfortable when riding in the backseat. If you are on a bumpy road or experience situations that force you to slam the brakes, your canine buddy won’t be thrown off the seat every time.

Related questions

How does a dog seat belt work?

As mentioned earlier, securing your dog to a seat belt involves putting a dog car harness over the upper part of your dog’s body and clipping this harness to your car’s seat belt.

Should you use a crate or harness for a dog in car?

A crate and harness both work perfectly fine since they serve the same purpose — restraining your dog (in the back seat, of course) when traveling to keep them safe.

When it comes to crates, though, invest in a safety trap that will allow you to clip the crate onto the car’s seat belt latch.

Are dog seat belts safe?

Yes, they are. Dog seat belts are crash-tested and designed to properly restrain your dog in the car seat.

Dog seat belt laws by state 2021?

Most dog seat belt laws fall under distracted driving. But states like New Jersey have stricter laws that consider having an unrestrained dog a violation of animal cruelty law.

Conclusion

Who doesn’t love taking their dog everywhere with us — be it family outings, weekend trips to the park, vet appointments, or the dog-friendly restaurant down the street. The big question, though, is, must you buckle up your dog in the car during these travels?

I hope you will now reconsider that dogs should wear seat belts or be in a crate as you drive.

You might also like…

Image in header via https://pixabay.com/photos/dog-car-ride-happy-travel-pet-2379878/

Marc Aaron

I write about the things I've learned about owning a dog, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips I've picked up along the way.

Recent Posts