Given a choice, your pit bull would most likely opt to ride in the passenger seat with her head hanging out the window to take in all the interesting sights and smells. It probably won't shock you to discover that this is not a safe mode of car travel for either one of you.
Dogs Riding Unrestrained: A Danger to Themselves and Others
Let's take a look at all the things that can--and unfortunately do--go wrong when dogs are allowed to ride in cars unrestrained:
- Free to climb around the driver's compartment, your pit bull could distract you or shift the gear lever into park or reverse, causing an accident.
- If she's allowed to ride with her head out the window, flying objects (e.g., debris, insects) could hit her in the eye, causing serious injury; dogs have also fallen out of open car windows--sometimes right into the path of oncoming traffic.
- In the case of a collision, an unrestrained dog faces the same risks as an unrestrained human: Not only can they be thrown through the windshield, but they can become a deadly projectile, injuring other passengers.
- If your pit bull is loose in the vehicle, she could jump out whenever the doors are opened for any reason; there are cases of dogs surviving serious accidents only to run into traffic in a state of shock and be hit by a car.
Safety Device Requirements
So, to keep your pit bull safe on the road, we need a device that will:
- Prevent your pit full from distracting the driver or interfering with the operation of the vehicle.
- Restrain your pit bull in the event of an accident to prevent injury to her and other passengers.
- Keep your pit bull from falling or jumping out of the vehicle if doors or windows are opened.
Crates vs. Travel Harnesses
While there are a number of products designed to facilitate safe canine car travel, only two meet all three of our requirements.
- Crate: Crates probably present the safest way to transport your pit bull in a
vehicle. There are reports of people being severely injured in a car
crash despite seat belts and air bags, while their crated canines
survived the accident without a scratch. For added security, the crate
should be fastened to the vehicle. You can purchase heavy-duty car
crates, but a regular Vari-Kennel works well too.
While crates are probably the best pick in most situations, they do have a few drawbacks:
- If your pit bull loves riding in vehicles and taking in the sights, being crated will deprive him of most of the enjoyment he derives from car rides.
- In order to securely transport a pit bull-sized crate, you need a hatchback, wagon, SUV, minivan, van, or truck.
- If it becomes necessary to exit the vehicle quickly following a serious accident, it will take longer to free the dog crated in the back than the canine strapped into the passenger seat next to you.
- Vehicle Restraint Harness: This type of harness latches into your car's seat
belt to keep your pit bull safely restrained in the case of accidents
and sudden swerves or stops. Your dog will be able to sit and lie down
comfortably, but she won't be able to leave her seat. A quick-release
buckle makes it easy to unstrap her.
Obviously restraint harnesses do not provide the same level of protection as crates in the event of a collision (the degree of safety they provide is comparable to seat belts for humans), but they do offer an excellent compromise for dogs who want to be able to sit in the front or back seat and look around. Just make sure you disable the passenger side air bag before allowing your pit bull to ride in the front.
A Few Words About Pit Bulls and Pickup Trucks
So many dogs are injured or killed every year being thrown--and in some cases jumping--from the bed of trucks that several states have made it illegal to transport untethered dogs in the back of pickups. However, tethering your pit bull to the bed of your truck with a leash, harness, or rope could actually exacerbate the danger. If thrown from the vehicle, there is an excellent chance he will end up strangled or dragged down the street!
It's much safer to transport your canine companion in the truck's cab, but if your pit bull must ride in the bed of your pickup, purchase a heavy-duty dog crate designed for that purpose and bolt it to the truck bed floor.