A Pet Owner’s PSA: Driving with a Dog in Your Lap

Pearl and I are known for taking little car trips together. The day we brought her home from the breeder we had a crate ready and set up for her, but we just didn’t have the heart to put her tiny 1 pound self into a crate for a 3 hour drive. She sat on a blankie that was on my lap, and for the longest time, as long as Mathew was driving, she rode on my lap. As time went on, I took Pearl on trips with me down to Corpus Christi when I would spend time with my family, and would put her in her crate for the trip. This didn’t last very long because Pearl would bark SO loud that it would hurt my ears. Knowing it was a bad idea and how I shouldn’t be driving with a dog in my lap, I put Pearl on my lap as I drove.

We’ve been doing it ever since.

If you hadn’t heard on my personal Facebook page or Twitter yesterday, Pearl and I were in an awful car accident on Saturday morning. Luckily, no one else was involved but the two of us (long story but I ran into a pole), and we are both o.k., but we are pretty bruised and beaten. Pearl was sitting on my lap when it happened, and the air bags went off on us. I remember seeing Pearl had fallen down next to me in between the driver door and seat. I believe that it had saved her life even though when we crashed, we had not been going more than 30 mph. I quickly got her out and opened the car door, screaming for help. I noticed Pearl had brown stuff on her fur, and it was coming off in little patches. Sadly, Pearl got burns from air bags (I had no idea this even could happen) and had to get part of an ear, neck, and side shaved due to her fur being burnt. Her ear is red where it has been shaved and I cried all day Saturday knowing that Pearl could have died and that I hurt her.

Pearl just 20 minutes before our accident
Pearl is like my child. We got her just TWO months after we got married, and she is a HUGE part of my life. When we got her- I missed work just so I could stay home with her to get her acquainted with the house. I would buy her tons of toys, and I would cry any time I had to leave her for several hours at a time. She’s my baby. Knowing that I hurt my baby…that it was MY fault…it hurt. Scenarios have been running through my mind- what if she’d lost her hearing? What if her fur doesn’t grow back? What if she had broken bones? What if my glass had shattered and gotten all over her? What if I had killed her? It was all too much to handle.

That’s when I promised myself- I will NEVER EVER allow Pearl to ride in the front seat with me again.

Just as it is dangerous for babies to be in the front seat, it’s dangerous for dogs too. The air bag burns could have been more severe. I’m so thankful she was wearing a Halloween costume that protected the majority of her skin. I mean, she’s only FIVE pounds. They don’t even let kids in the front seat that small! What was I thinking!?

So now I’m researching options for dog travel since she hates her crate. Dog car seats seem like a great idea and I’ll be able to put her in the middle to see her.

I think this Snoozer Black Pet Car Seat Lookout is a great idea since Pearl doesn’t want to be in a crate. It’s got 4.8 out of 5 stars on Petco.com from consumers, it has lots of cushion, it sits all the way down on the seat (the ones that hang don’t seem like they would be good), and they buckle in. The cover is also washable, which is great if I took her somewhere where she could get dirty. There’s a similar car seat for the console, however, knowing that air bags can hit the center console, I would not consider that one. It is about $65 for a dog up to 18 pounds, but to me, it’s an investment.

Here’s the thing:

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a dog crate, a car seat, or a dog seat belt as long as your dog (and Pearl) are in the back seat, in something safe, and sturdy. PLEASE put your dog in the back seat. Please make sure you have something safe to put your dog in. If you love your dog, please do not drive with your dog in the front seat, on your lap, or even on someone else’s lap in the back seat. It is NOT safe. I’ll say it again… Driving with a dog in your lap is NOT safe. If you can also avoid it, please do not put your dog in a crate in the bed of your truck, or even tied up in the bed of your truck. You could brake quickly and your dog could fly out, or you could roll your truck and the crate could fall out, hurting your dog. Over 100,000 dogs die from falls from pick up trucks annually. Please keep your dog inside your car if you can.

You are responsible for YOUR pet. Treat your pet the way you want your child to be treated. They are family and they look to you for food, love, shelter, and safety. Please do what is right and learn from my mistake. Please travel safely with your pet. No more driving with a dog in your lap! Trust me, I won’t be.

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  1. I am so glad you are both ok. It is so scary. I worry about driving with Bogart often. I have worried I could be in an accident he could escape and run away or even worse get hurt. About 2 years ago I bought him a seatbelt. I keep in in the backseat now and always seatbelt him in. He wasn’t a fan but he did get used to it!
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  2. I carry my small dogs on my lap too even though I know better. I’ve been looking at those same little baskets you have pictured for my dogs. I think I’ll step up the search and buy one sooner than later. You never think an accident will happen, but it does. I wouldn’t want my dogs to be hurt or killed because I didn’t try to keep them safe. Thanks for sharing your story and for the reminder. Glad you are both OK.
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  3. Amen! Chloe and Sophie hate their crate, but back seat it is. Glad you are both ok.
    Illegally Blonde recently posted…Critter ConquestMy Profile

  4. My dog is MUCH MUCH larger than Pearl, but I understand your concern! Pippa (40 lbs) wants to stand on the console while I drive and she’s so big I can’t see around her. I have “seat belt” for her to keep her restrained in the back seat. It’s just a loop that slides through my car seat belt and clips onto her harness. She can still move around and look at the window, but she’s safe and restrained. It’s like this one from Petsmart: http://www.petsmart.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3951212&f=PAD%2FpsNotAvailInUS%2FNo. I’m so so sorry you had an accident, but glad you’re mostly unscathed! I hope Pearl’s burns heal quickly!
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  5. We have 2 medium/big dogs so they just lay on the backseat but there has been times they have flown off the seat in the floor. I gotta find something for big dogs!

    I hope Pearl heals quickly! That is so scary!
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  6. Thank for you sharing this! I hope both you and Pearl are recuperating and are on the mend soon! I got Scout a doggie seatbelt after hearing stories of how dogs can fly through the windshield in a bad accident. If we got on long trips he gets buckled in the back, but for short trips I buckle him into the passengers seat. I think I will be putting him the back seat all the time now. He does want to be with me and cries, but eventually settles down. It’s for his own good!

    FYI – last day for the giveaway!

    ~Ashley @ A Cute Angle
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  7. I am so glad you are both OK, Stephanie. I’ve heard about people riding with cats on their laps or lose in the car, too, and just like dogs, they should ride in a more secure position. I totally agree that pets should be treated as family members and kept safe the same way you would want a child treated.
    Heather recently posted…Simple & Fun Fall Craft Idea: DIY Halloween Owl WreathMy Profile

  8. Wow, so scary but so glad you are both ok. Sophie rides in my lap even though I know it’s is so stupid to allow her to. Thank you for this wake up call!
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  9. Aww Steph I’m still so sad about you and Pearl, but SO glad you’re both OK. I’m definitely going to invest in a crate or dog carseat for Binky now!
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  10. Wow! I’m so glad you both are okay! Thanks for sharing your story with us- this is something that never crossed my mind! I don’t have a puppy right now but I’ll definitely be thinking about this in the future! I’m so glad you and your sweet girl are okay!!

  11. OH no! I’m so glad that both of you are okay. I’ve heard horror stories about people being in wrecks with their “babies” (fur babies) and bad things happening– thank goodness this wasn’t the case and everyone made it through this. I feel the same way about my Levi. He’s my child. While he’s not the pet that I got after my son passed away.. I literally wouldn’t come home to my house without getting a puppy because I needed something to baby– that are just that, little babies. Take extra special care. I’m sending prayers your way, for the both of you!
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  12. I am so glad you both are going to be ok. We have a pitbull but she rides in the seat. We have an older large truck. If and when we get a new vehicle for me to drive she will be placed in the back seats if she goes with us.
    Southern Angel recently posted…A full tiring weekMy Profile

  13. I am so glad that you both are ok sweet girl.. Goodness that was awful I am sure! However I must admit I am just as guilty for allowing my fur child to ride in my lap too.. Jake cannot stand crates or anything because ever since I got him I have always had him in my lap.. Hang in there mamma!
    Ashleigh recently posted…Giving Blood & Looking back At Two Months AgoMy Profile

  14. Yeesh, I need to stop driving with Jexi on my lap!!

  15. I totally have a carseat for my 4 lb yorkie. She loves it and I love that she is safe!

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  1. […] Pearl is in DIRE need of a haircut but I’m still too scared to put her in my car since the accident. I’m thinking she is going to get an early Christmas gift on Thanksgiving for a dog car seat, […]