How to Keep Your Dog Safe and Properly Secured in Your Car

Written By: Dale Orlando and Endrita Isaj, Student-at-Law

Keep Your Dog Safe and Properly Secured in Your Car | McLeish Orlando Personal Injury Lawyers

This year, dog ownership was on the rise in Canada as a result of the COVID-19 lockdowns and the transition of many people to working from home who sought the companionship of a furry friend.[1] There are important safety tips for dog owners to keep in mind to ensure a secured car ride for everyone.

The number one concern when travelling with a dog in the car is the safety of the dog, the passengers, and the driver. Car safety features are designed for humans, not pets. This puts dogs at risk of serious head, neck, and back trauma in the event of a high-speed crash, rollover, or collision.[2] A car’s airbags can even be deadly to a pet.[3] Dog seat belts, dog crates, or dog car seats are necessary when travelling with a dog to ensure their protection.

A dog that is not properly restrained can also pose a danger to its owners in the car if there is a sudden stop, swerve, or collision.[4] If a collision occurs at 50 miles per hour, a 10-pound unrestrained dog can generate 500 pounds of projectile force, putting both the dog and its owners at serious risk.[5]

Riding in the car with your German Shepherd unrestrained? Keep in mind that in a 30 mile per hour crash, an 80-pound dog becomes a 2,400-pound flying projectile.[6] It is in everyone’s interest to secure your dog with a pet restraint when driving.

An unrestrained dog can also become the cause of an accident by allowing the driver of the car to be distracted.[7] A survey found that 65% of dog owners engaged in distracted driving behaviours due to their dog roaming free in the car.[8] Distracted drivers are more likely to get into a collision than drivers whose focus is on the road.

Case law has put a duty on dog owners to exercise reasonable skill or care to properly secure their dog in the car if it is foreseeable that the unrestrained dog could create the risk of an accident. In Graham v Hodgkinson, the defendant dog owner was driving in heavy traffic when she described her 16-month old Siberian husky dog jumping forward and hitting her in the back of her head.[9] This caused the driver to hit her head on the steering wheel and rear-end the car in front of her. The Court of Appeal held:

Whether or not the actions of a dog may excuse the actions of the driver of the rear car in situations such as this will depend upon a number of factors including the size, weight, age, temperament and past behaviour of the dog, the degree of control exercised over the dog, the route to be followed by the driver, the speeds at which the driver is expected to drive, the conditions under which the driver would be expected to drive and the amount of traffic he may be expected to encounter. A large, exuberant dog, inadequately controlled, travelling in a car on a busy highway, creates a risk of tragic consequences that are readily foreseeable.[10]

The Court of Appeal ultimately held the defendant dog owner was liable for the accident. The dog owner had failed to take adequate steps to ensure that a large, young, and playful dog was properly secured so as to not interfere with her driving.[11]

What Options do I have for Keeping my Pet Safe and Properly Secured?

  • Dog Harness Seat Belt
  • Dog Car Seats/Booster Seat
  • Kennel/Crates that are securely attached in the car
  • Dog Barriers that are installed between the front and back seats

If you or a loved one have suffered a serious injury, contact the lawyers at McLeish Orlando for a free consultation.


[1] Dianna Buckner, CBC News, “COVID-19 has doggy demand soaring and scammers taking advantage

Social Sharing,” October 3, 2020,

[2] John Gilpatrick, PetMD, “Dog Car Seats and Seat Belts: Can They Keep Your Pup Safe?,” January 26, 2018,

[3] American Automobile Association (AAA), “Pet Passenger Safety,”

[4] John Gilpatrick, PetMD, “Dog Car Seats and Seat Belts: Can They Keep Your Pup Safe?,” January 26, 2018,

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] “Keeping Your Dogs Safe in the Car,”

[8] American Automobile Association (AAA), “Pet Passenger Safety,”

[9]  Graham v Hodgkinson, 1983 CarswellOnt 1350, 40 OR (2d) 697, at para 23.

[10] Ibid at para 26.

[11] Ibid at para 24.

Dale Orlando


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