DETROIT — Keeping your kids buckled up is the law. But so far, only a handful of states require pets to be tethered when they're in the back of a pickup, and no states require them to be restrained in cars. • That's not only dangerous for pets, it's dangerous for drivers, says Christina Selter, the founder of California-based pet advocacy group Bark Buckle Up. Pets can be a major cause of driver distraction, and they can be dangerous. A 60-pound golden retriever can hit you with 2,700 pounds of force in a 35 mile-per-hour crash, and a frenzied dog can hamper rescue workers. • Here are some accessories to help your pet travel securely and comfortably, whether you're in a hatchback or a Land, um, Rover:
Dog safety harness
Various companies, including Ruff Rider and human seat belt maker Immi Inc., make harnesses for dogs that can be connected to the seat belts in the backseat of your car. The harness systems sell for between $20 and $30. Bark Buckle Up recommends Immi's PetBuckle brand, which has passed the same kinds of crash tests used for humans. Selter adds that the backseat is always the safest place for a pet, which can be injured if the air bags deploy in the front seat. If you must put your pet in the front seat, use a carrier.
Crates and carriers
An enclosed crate or carrier is the safest place for a pet, Selter says. That's why police dogs travel in steel cages. Carriers are available in a wide range of sizes and materials, from a $15 plastic cat carrier to the climate-controlled Komfort Pets carrier available for $126 on Amazon.com. (Komfort Pets advises you not to leave your pet unattended in the car, but says the carrier is good for keeping the temperature regulated on very hot or cold days.) Carriers should be secured in the seat with available tether systems that snap into the seat belts. For one of her dogs, Selter uses a crate that fits in the back of the vehicle and tethers it to both sides so the crate can't slide.
It's what it sounds like: a fabric tunnel with a mesh top that snaps into the backseat. It's zippered on the ends to let your dog get in and out. The dog isn't harnessed inside, but can't go far if you stop fast. It's $70 for a small size and $80 for a large on the Web site Jetsetfido.com.
Child booster seats, fitted with dog harnesses, or specially made dog booster seats are good for smaller dogs like chihuahuas or Pomeranians that want to be able to see out the window. Some dog booster seats have leashes that attach to the dog's collar, but Selter says that's dangerous because the dog could choke if the car stops quickly. Attach the leashes to a harness instead. The medium-sized Pet Gear booster seat, which costs $75 at Petco, can be secured to a car seat with the seat belts and has a tether to attach to the dog's harness. There's a heated version available for about $10 more.