Dear Tom and Ray:
I travel with a guide dog. When we're in our own car (driven by my husband, not by me or the dog), I have a harness that the seat belt slips through and we buckle the dog in the back seat. However, when I'm riding with someone else, I don't have a harness, and the dog sits in front of me on the floor (I sit in the front passenger seat). My question is: If the air bag goes off, will the dog be injured? Many thanks for your help/opinions.— Laura
Tom: Not only might the dog be injured by a deploying air bag, Laura, but you might be injured too, if the dog is thrown against you.
Ray: Of course, this is total guesswork on my part. I've never been a dog or had an air bag deployed in my muzzle.
Tom: But putting the dog, unharnessed, in the back seat is bad, too. In an accident, the dog can become a projectile. And coming over the front seat, a 75-pound Labrador retriever can snap your neck.
Ray: So there's clearly nothing safer, in your case, than harnessing the dog in the back seat. Even though it involves some inconvenience, I would encourage you to buckle the dog in back, even when you're in someone else's car.
Tom: If the harness you have now is too bulky to take with you, or is attached semi-permanently to your own car, have a look online. We found some that are pretty simple and lightweight, so you could carry one in your purse or backpack. And some appear to be light enough that the dog can wear it all day if necessary, and it just clips onto the seatbelt when you're in the car.
Ray: We don't know of any real testing that's been done with animals and cars with air bags. I'm sure the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration already has its hands full trying to save two-legged knuckleheads like us. But if anyone out there has any real data that can provide a better answer for Laura, please drop us a line via our website, www.cartalk.com.