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Almost half of drivers don’t restrain pets: Survey

August 14th, 2023  |  Auto

A dog hangs halfway out a back window while a vehicle passes on the road. Familiar sight?

Nearly half of Canadians admitted to driving with their pets unrestrained, according to a recent survey.

Commissioned by Allstate Canada, the survey reveals many pet owners are not practicing safe driving when it comes to their fur friends.

Some motorists leave them unrestrained in the back seat, while – even worse – others drive with their pets on their lap.

Risk of injury

The Ontario SPCA advises owners who allow their pets in the front seat that they are putting them at risk of going through the front windshield or getting injured by the air bag in the event of an accident.

The survey results appear to bear out some of these concerns. Nearly half (47%) of Canadians surveyed admitted to driving while their pets were unrestrained inside their vehicles. Twenty per cent said they allowed their pets to move freely in the backseat. A small percentage (6%) of drivers also admitted to keeping their pets on their laps as they drive.

Among respondents who travel with their pets in vehicles at least once a year, 49% said their animals are restrained. This includes the use of crates or carriers (32%), harnesses that attach to seatbelts (13%), or pet-specific seat belts or car seats (5%).

The survey also found a quarter of respondents (25%) said they travel with a pet at least once a week, while 22% said a couple times per month. Additionally, 35% said they ride with their pet only once or twice per year and 18% said they never bring their fur friend in their car.

What are the laws?

In Ontario there are laws relating but not specific to the transportation of animals. Under the Highway Traffic Act (HTA), there are two charges that can apply:

  • Insecure Load Section 111(2) of the HTA. Example: a dog loose in the back of a truck.
  • Careless driving: Section 130 of the HTA. Example: dog on the lap of a driver.

The ASPCA recommends these car travel safety tips for drivers bringing their dog along, especially if travelling great distances:

  1. Get your pet ready for a long trip. Get your pet used to the car by doing a series of short drives first, and gradually lengthening time spent in the car.
  2. Keep your animal in a well-ventilated crate or carrier. The crate should be large enough for your pet to stand, sit, lie down and turn around in. Secure the crate so it will not slide or shift in the event of an abrupt stop. If you aren’t going to use one, keep them in the back seat using a special harness attached to a seat buckle.
  3. Ensure your pet’s vaccines are up to date: Bring any necessary documentation with you, particularly if crossing the border or state lines.
  4. Prep a travel kit. Bring food, bottled water, a bowl, leash, a waste scoop, plastic bags, grooming supplies, medication and first-aid. Pack a favourite toy or pillow to give your pet a sense of familiarity.
  5. Never leave your animal alone in a parked vehicle. Temperatures can rise (even with windows open) or drop quickly putting your pet’s health at risk.

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