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Pet Safety Inside Moving Vehicles

Sgt. Mark Thompson talks about the benefits of pet "seat belts."

Well it rained and my yard is green again, which means the grass in growing and I am mowing. The Tigers are competing for first place, football season is around the corner and the all-important school is about to begin. Hang on for the ride as it doesn’t look like things will be slowing down much.

My retired partner, Curt Fonger, stopped by for a visit. We worked road patrol together a little while ago, or as some would say, “When ships were wood and men were steel.” We can hold our own when stories are told of adventure and daring. But, Curt tells me there is a life after being a Trooper and he is the proof.

Curt lives in Arizona now but visits Michigan every summer to camp, hike, swim, visit friends and family and explore our towns. This year Curt and his wife Marta were smitten with Frankenmuth. They really enjoyed the friendly people, beautiful buildings, the band and of course the food particularly a German bakery. Guess where I’m going the next weekend I have off.

While reminiscing Curt and I recalled a car crash on a particular cold winter evening on eastbound M-14. It involved a single vehicle which had come upon an icy portion of the roadway. The driver lost control and the vehicle rolled over several times. The driver was wearing his seat belt and other than being shaken up and a few bruises, he was just fine.    

This story isn’t unique until we looked in the vehicle and there, in the passenger seat, was the passenger, all harnessed in and wagging his tail. The driver had a midsized dog riding with him. The driver had purchased a “dog seat belt harness,” and the dog was secured by this device. So when the car rolled over, the dog was safely secured and did not crash into windows, the dash, the driver or roof of the car when it rolled over. This particular dog seatbelt allowed the dog to sit upright or lay down in the passenger seat, but would not allow the dog to roam in the car.

Recently the state of New Jersey passed a law where driving with pets loose in a car is a violation and this includes allowing pets to hang their head out the window, riding in the back of a truck or curled up on a drivers lap. The fine for a violation ranges from $250.00 to $1,000.00. That money can buy a lot of pet food.

Michigan does not have a specific law regarding the securing of pets in vehicles. In Michigan, if an animal was to cause a driver to be distracted and cause a crash an officer may, depending on circumstances, issue a citation for Careless or Reckless driving. 

My personal experience with pets in vehicles has been limited to dogs, cats and a boa constrictor wrapped around a drivers waist. But one of my daughters has had a driving experience with a roaming pet which resulted in a crash. But I’ve been told I can’t tell that story. 

If you care for your pet and the pet travels with you in your vehicle, you may want to research ways to keep your pet safe while traveling in your vehicle.  If a crash does happen, an unsecured pet becomes a missile inside the vehicle and could cause injury to you, a passenger and certainly to the pet. 

If you have a question, please send it to askatrooper12@gmail.com or mail it to the Michigan State Police – Brighton Post, 4803 S. Old US-23, Brighton, MI   48114.

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