The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Globe Life

April 1, 2013

Ryan Richardson: Pet harnesses turn trips into joyrides

JOPLIN, Mo. — My dog genuinely loves car rides. I am certain it is one of her favorite things ever, ranking somewhere in between chewing a giant rawhide and receiving an epic belly rub.

However, I am not a huge fan of having my dog in the car.

If my dog is in my car, it usually means that we are on a road trip. I'm from the north part of the state, so any time I go home I make a three-hour trip with my dog. She tends to move around a lot, and that isn't conducive to safe driving.

Missouri does not have any state laws on the books pertaining specifically to pets and driving. The state does have distracted driver laws that mainly pertain to using a cellphone while operating a motor vehicle.

But a law was passed (SB 717) last year making distracted driving a class C misdemeanor. The law basically states that anything that takes your sole attention from driving can be a ticketed offense.

I support safe driving, and I know that I am guilty of letting my pet distract me when I am on the road. I did a little research to find ways to help increase our safety while we're on the road.

Before putting your dog in the car, I suggest giving it a quick brush to remove any loose hair. Dog hair is a pain to clean out of a car. It tends to get blown around and can be an eyesore on dark interiors.

If you have time, a nail trim isn't a bad idea, either. It will help cut down on your dog's desire to dig in to your interior or dashboard.

I also suggest making sure that your dog's collar is secure and that its tags are in place and readable. You don't want your dog taking off in a strange place with no way of getting back to you.

Once you are getting ready to disembark, you have a few options. The old, tried-and-true method is to travel with a kennel. It is quick, secure and the dog won't be running around the car.

I am not a fan of this method. Generally, the kennel will be shaky, which can bump your dog, depending on the road conditions. Also, in case of a wreck, it is one more thing to go flying through your car.

Kennels also take away your pet's pleasure of being on a road trip. Why not let your pet enjoy it? This is where the pet seat belt comes in.

Basically, these are harnesses that slide through a normal seat belt and hold your dog in a relatively stationary position, but allows for some lateral movement, including sitting and standing. Make sure that your harness includes a D-ring for easy leashing to get in and out of the car.

Remember, there will be a period of adjustment for anything that is new to your pet. The more you use a restraint, the more your pet will start to enjoy it.

It is the smart thing to do on the road, and I recommend using one.

Contact Ryan Richardson about this column or other topic suggestions at rrichardson@joplinglobe.com or 417-627-7363.

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