The Cutting Edge of Dog Safety
March 27, 2004 9:06 AM   Subscribe

Marine Corps Dogs and Police K-9 Dogs are suiting up in kevlar vests. And in Sante Fe, New Mexico dogs may soon be wearing mandatory dog seat belts.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy (15 comments total)
I have a seat belt for my dog, when he rides in the car. It's a harness that has a loop that you buckle the seatbelt through. He can still move around and look out the window but he can't run around the car or jump into my lap while I am driving.

I have also heard that the way to travel with dogs is to have them in a crate in the back seat but my dog would not go for that. : ) (Yes, he is very spoiled!)
posted by SisterHavana at 9:24 AM on March 27, 2004

posted by trondant at 9:45 AM on March 27, 2004

because we can't have terror canines running around better equipped than patriot canines.
posted by quonsar at 9:55 AM on March 27, 2004

That's pretty cool about the vests, but I doubt a seat belt law will go anywhere. In California, it's illegal to drive with a dog loose in your rear truck bed, and it's even illegal to do it with a single leash tying them to the truck. You have to cross-tether them, tie them to both sides, in order to comply with the law. But does this stop anyone? No.

The only anecdote I've heard personally about a dog leaping from a vehicle and dying involved a convertible, anyway.
posted by scarabic at 11:42 AM on March 27, 2004

My vet's office has a poster showing the proper way to travel with a dog in the car - either with a special seatbelt, or in a crate that's belted in.

It makes sense; in case of an accident, a dog would fly through the car the same as an unrestrained human.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:33 PM on March 27, 2004

Somebody call Rick Santorum! How will we ever stop these armored dogs!
posted by moonbiter at 1:03 PM on March 27, 2004

Crates aren't necessarily better than harnesses (although crates are more comfortable for long trips), but whichever you choose, please use one - I think this law is a great idea. A dog shouldn't be unrestrained in a car, not only for the dog's sake (I know of more than one dog killed in minor accidents because of being unrestrained), but for the sake of both the people in the car (any unsecured item can become a projectile in an accident, as Oriole Adams said, and getting hit in the head by a flying dog can kill or seriously injure you), and any rescuers who may be needed (you do not want to have to deal with a possibly injured and definitely freaked-out dog running around or trapped in the car while you're trying to save human lives).

And kevlar vests are a great idea, there's a lot of time and money invested in police and military dogs, they are extremely valuable (not to mention that some degree of protection is just the right thing to do if you're going to place them in harm's way).
posted by biscotti at 2:31 PM on March 27, 2004

I first came across the Kevlar vest story in the Mar 22 issue of Time magazine. The story said that military dogs in Iraq get vests with pouches for ice bags to keep them from overheating.

As for the seat belts.

I'm all for a law that keeps dogs out of the backs of trucks (a friend of mine nearly ran over a dog that fell out of a truck) but I think it is pretty ridiculous to require owners to buy/use seat belts for dogs that ride inside. What will Sante Fe do about tourists riding through town with their dogs?

Our dog is a great passenger (well, aside from the whole hair shedding thing) she just sleeps on the back seat. But my sister-in-law crates her dog for transport and it gets car sick. When she lets him ride out of the crate, he is fine. I think it throws off his balance.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 2:38 PM on March 27, 2004

Consider also the Iraq view of dogs. The pre-war Iraqi government "We will turn Bush into a dog" as an example.

A dog's live in an Islamic country is not a happy, panting, fed table scraps, scratched belly kind of life like in America.

Americans are 'airlifting' dogs outta Iraq. Link
posted by rough ashlar at 2:54 PM on March 27, 2004

I'm all for a law that keeps dogs out of the backs of trucks (a friend of mine nearly ran over a dog that fell out of a truck) but I think it is pretty ridiculous to require owners to buy/use seat belts for dogs that ride inside.

It doesn't require a seat belt, it requires some manner of restraint, or a crate.

Both of which are really good ideas. While your dog might be perfectly happy and calm riding on your back seat, if you should (God forbid) get in a wreck, you're liable to be killed or seriously fucked up by umpty pounds of dog flying around your car at 50mph.

If this is your bulldog, I'll assume she weighs in around 50 pounds. Imagine being hit on the back of the head by a 50 pound weight moving, relative to you, at 50 mph. Or even 20 or 30 mph. For 20 mph, lie down on the ground and have someone drop a 50 pound weight onto the back of your head from 14 feet. For 50 mph, drop it onto the back of your head from the top of an eight-to-ten story building.

Likewise, your dog will be less fucked-up after a wreck if it's been restrained, though I'd imagine it's not likely to emerge unscathed.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:21 PM on March 27, 2004

God, Rou-Xenphobe, you are right. And she does weigh 60 lbs, but why am I not going to run out and get her a seatbelt?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:19 PM on March 27, 2004

why am I not going to run out and get her a seatbelt

Because you're bad at risk assessment.

All of us are, especially with activities that we've done since childhood. We assign incorrectly low risk to activities we're comfortable with, and incorrectly high risk to things that are unfamiliar.

People do this all the time. Parents move across town or out to the suburbs, spending tens of thousands of dollars to ameliorate the risk of a stranger abducting their child -- a risk which is essentially zero anyway, and certainly well below the risk of your children being struck by lightning. Incurring a serious cost to provide at most a negligible reduction in risk implies a very high valuation on the life of their child.

But the same parents will sometimes not put the kid in the car seat that's already there, or will drive without making the larger kids put on seat belts. Not doing something that's completely costless, but seriously reduces risk of injury, implies that the parents place zero value on the life of their child. Which obviously isn't true, but that the same time it's strictly implied by their actual, observed behavior.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:48 PM on March 27, 2004

why am I not going to run out and get her a seatbelt?

Because you've never seen the results of an object the size of a 60 lb. dog flying around inside a passenger car in an accident? Because you don't care about your dog's safety or your own, or the safety of those who might have to extract you from a wreck while your freaked-out and injured 60 lb. dog tries to bite them? I dunno...why aren't you going to run out and get her a harness? They're inexpensive, easy to use and can save you and your dog from serious injury. I assume YOU wear a seatbelt in the car, do you only do that because it's the law? Does your dog have magic velcro powers that will glue her to the seat in an accident? Because that's about the only good reason I can think of to ridicule the idea of appropriately restraining a dog in a car. Do it or not as you see fit, but don't make it sound as though it's silly and unreasonable to care about such things.

And what ROU_Xenophobe said.
posted by biscotti at 10:10 PM on March 27, 2004

I once talked with a vet about a relatively small dog that wasn't restrained in the back seat of a car. In a low-speed head-on collision, the dog went flying from the back seat into the console (between the two front seats) with enough force to break a hip.
posted by alumshubby at 4:47 AM on March 28, 2004

On thinking about it, I wonder about the effectiveness of the Kevlar vests for the dogs. The reason this occurs to me is that for a shooter, the silhouette profile of a dog coming at you is going to be very different than the silhouette profile of a man.

Kevlar works as something like a net, spreading the energy of a bullet impact out over a large area to reduce penetration. The assumption in the material is that the round will hit relatively perpendicular to the surface of the vest. For a standing man, that is a pretty good assumption, but for a dog I'm not so sure that is the case. If you were shooting the dog from the side, sure, but I would expect that most shooters would be firing at a dog as it came at them, at it's head/forelegs and parallel down the length of the vest. I would think that would make the vest much less effective.

I'm not saying that the vest is completely useless by any means, but I'm just wondering if they have done any tests on this at all.
posted by moonbiter at 1:57 PM on March 28, 2004

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