Harness, carrier can protect pets, people in vehicles

Theoretically, Mia the American Bulldog knows to stay in the back seat when she's traveling with her master, Rhett Newsome.


There are times, however, when the white-and-brindle puppy can't contain herself.

"She can be a distraction sometimes," Newsome said outside an Augusta pet-supply store.

That kind of distraction is blamed for a wreck on May 15, when a dog, wandering free in a car, caused an Augusta woman to crash into an oncoming car, authorities say. The wreck killed the drivers of both cars and the dog.

Newsome hadn't considered a harness for Mia until told about the wreck.

"That's actually not a bad idea," he said.

Some think it's more than just a good idea: "It ought to be against the law to have unsecured pets in a vehicle," said Tom Crosby, vice president of communications for AAA Carolinas.

Crosby points out that an animal loose in the vehicle is not just a distraction, but also poses a risk to the driver and passengers if the car comes to a sudden stop.

A 40-pound dog flying through the air can be thrown with enough force to kill the animal and seriously hurt everyone else in the car, he said.

Pet owners have several options for restraining their pets in vehicles. A restraining harness resembles a seat belt and comes in small, medium and large sizes. The other option is to contain a dog in a carrier during traveling or secure them in a booster seat.

Judy Knight said these types of restraints are "very popular items" at her pet-supply store, Bow Wow Bowtique. A recent customer at her Grovetown store purchased a harness because of the fatal crash.

"It really makes a difference" in keeping your animals safe," Knight said.

Knight has been raising dogs for 25 years and said she always has them in a carrier or strapped in, not just for safety but for cleanliness, too.

While there aren't any figures on how often pets cause wrecks, there is anecdotal evidence about the benefits of keeping pets contained.

Gina DiNardo, spokeswoman for the American Kennel Club, can remember several instances of when a show dog was saved because it was in a carrier.

"Most people's dogs are part of the family," she said. "You wouldn't let a small child in your car (unrestrained)."