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Dog Restraint in Cars

Valarie V. Tynes, DVM, DACVB, DACAW, Ceva Animal Health, Sweetwater, Texas

Preventive Medicine

|January 2020

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In the Literature

Hazel SJ, Kogan LR, Montrose VT, Hebart ML, Oxley JA. Restraint of dogs in vehicles in the US, UK and Australia. Prev Vet Med. 2019;170(1):104714.


Traveling with a dog can be a significant source of distraction, and distracted driving is a major cause of vehicle accidents. In an accident, both dogs and humans are at risk from the unrestrained pet.

An online survey of dog owners in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia sought to determine the frequency with which restraints were used by pet owners traveling with their dog, as well as the factors involved in their decision to use or not use restraints. This study demonstrated that US owners were less likely to restrain their dog when traveling as compared with Australian or UK owners. Only ≈55% of the 706 surveyed US owners claimed that they always restrained their dog in the car; 67% of 637 Australian respondents and 72% of 692 UK respondents reported that they always restrained their dog while in the car.

Of note, only 6 US states have specific regulations limiting where or how dogs are allowed to ride in cars.1 In the United Kingdom, however, the Highway Code has a specific statement describing suitable restraint for dogs in cars2; failure to comply with these regulations can lead to the driver’s car insurance being invalidated. Most of Australia’s regulations fall somewhere between these.3

Other findings regarding restraint of dogs by pet owners included:

  • Small dogs were restrained more frequently than were larger dogs.
  • Older owners were more likely to restrain their dog than were younger owners.
  • Owners driving minivans or vans were more likely to restrain their dog than were those driving small- to medium-sized cars or SUVs.
  • In the United States and United Kingdom, most dogs that were regularly restrained were restrained in crates or carriers. In Australia, a harness and tether attached to a seat buckle was most common.

Overall, the most common reasons reported for not providing restraint involved concerns for the pet’s comfort or that restraint was not believed to be necessary. Most owners noted a lack of guidance in choosing the appropriate car restraint for their dog and agreed that more information is needed. Most owners agreed that restraint devices for dogs should be safety tested.


Key pearls to put into practice:


Clinicians should be prepared to remind pet owners of the importance of safe pet restraint while traveling. Distance traveled should not be a factor in whether restraint is used.



Confinement in crates should be encouraged when possible, and clinicians can recommend resources to owners to help determine which restraint devices have been proven safe in testing (see Suggested Reading). Such resources could also be impactful for owners who believe restraint of their pet in the car is not critical.


Many owner misconceptions regarding the need for pet restraint can lead them to make inappropriate choices. Clinicians should help owners understand that all dogs, regardless of size, need to be safely restrained when traveling.


For global readers, a calculator to convert laboratory values, dosages, and other measurements to SI units can be found here.

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