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'Woof, Woof,' Should Dogs Use Seat Belts Too?

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RALEIGH — Pet owners often drive without their four-legged friends in any kind of restraint.

It is not against the law in North Carolina to drive with a dog unrestrained in the car, but common sense dictates that any distraction inside the car can cause an accident.

There are a lot of devices on the market aimed at keeping motorists and their pets safe on the road.

Cindy Bailey, who heads the Animal Protection Society in Durham, takes her dog Prudence to work every day.

"She thinks she's got to be in my lap," Bailey said. "I tie her in the back seat so she won't constantly be battling to get up in the front."

A 6-pound bundle of joy can be distracting. Bailey often puts Prudence in a carrier.

"Your responsible pet owners, who really care about their animals, are going to do the responsible thing in the best interest of their family, and that's restraint," Bailey said.

Unrestrained pets in cars have caused accidents.

"It's not against the law to have a pet in the car," says Sgt. Jeff Winstead of theN.C. Highway Patrol, "but whatever the animal might cause you to do, you would indeed be responsible for it, and of course civilly liable as well."

Officials say one of the best ways to protect yourself from being distracted by a dog while driving is some kind of a gate or partition between the driver and the dog.

Pet stores sell a variety of products to restrain pets in the car.

"The shoulder strap restraint goes through the back, and it keeps the animal from being able to move around," one pet store worker said.

The seat belts may take some getting used to; therefore, animal trainers suggest using the safety methods first on short trips so that dogs can get used to them.

Many municipalities in North Carolina do have laws requiring dogs to be restrained in the back of pickup trucks. The goal is to keep dogs from jumping out and into traffic, but the device must also be safe so that the dogs will not strangle themselves.


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