How to keep your dog, and you, safe during car excursions

Dog on bench

Blue (A508943) is a fun, active dog who loves frolicking in the yard. As much as he loves playing, he makes sure to take plenty of breaks to get some satisfying back scratches. Blue can’t wait to be your adventure and snuggle buddy!

With our recent “hurriquake” in Southern California and the devastating fires in Maui, we have been reminded of the importance of having an emergency plan for both ourselves and our pets.

But, even with emergency plans in place, some disasters — like Maui — happen so quickly without warning that tragic loss of life occurs. At Pasadena Humane, we mourn the humans and pets who perished in the fire, and we grieve for the people who survived but whose beloved pets, sadly, did not.

It seems that more and more crises are occurring that are beyond our control. So, I’m finding solace in writing about something that is more within our control: everyday safety for ourselves and our pets.

Studies have shown that a large percentage of pet owners drive with their dogs in the car, but surprisingly only a small percentage use restraints to safely secure their dogs.

Not only is this dangerous for your dog, it can also have potentially deadly and harmful consequences for you.

Road traffic crashes are a leading cause of death in the United States for people ages 1-54. Loose dogs in the car can cause a variety of distractions leading to an increased likelihood of getting into an accident.

Some of the most common distractions include petting your dog, using your arms to restrict your dog’s movement while braking, or blocking your dog from climbing from the back to the front seat.

While it’s natural to want to comfort and protect your pup, it’s also incredibly unsafe. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, taking your eyes off the road for just 5 seconds at 55 mph is equivalent to traveling the entire length of a football field without looking!

So, buckle up as I share some tips to keep you and your pup safe in the car.

Backseat driver: The safest place for your pooch is in the backseat. This keeps them out of accident “crumple zones” and in an area less likely to cause distractions. For their safety, your dog should never ride shotgun in the passenger seat or in the open bed of a truck.

Click it: Restraint is critical when having your dog along for the ride. A wide variety of items are available to buckle your dog up in the backseat. From doggie seat belts, car harnesses, carry boxes and standard items like wire crates, you should be able to easily find a crash-tested way to keep your dog secure. You can also find barriers that block dogs from being able to climb from the backseat up front.

Hot cars: Never leave your dog unattended in your vehicle. Even a short trip to the store in temperate weather can turn deadly quick. On a 75 degrees day, your car’s internal temperature can reach 94 degrees within 10 minutes. Unbelievable, right?

Windows up: Yes, most dogs love riding in the car with their head out the window, but it isn’t always the safest option. All that air can dry out their eyes and leave them exposed to debris like rocks, dust, and other irritants.

Now that you have dog car safety down, it’s time to hit the road. Why not cruise over to the San Marino Motor Classic this Sunday, August 27, at Lacy Park in San Marino.

This dog-friendly, concours automotive event benefits local nonprofits like ours. Since its founding in 2011, the San Marino Motor Classic has donated more than $1 million to Pasadena Humane, plus our Wiggle Waggle Wagon will be onsite with adoptable dogs.

Learn more and get your tickets at


Dia DuVernet is president and CEO of Pasadena Humane. 

This blog post originally appeared as a column in the Pasadena Star-News on August 25, 2023.