Alicia Ferguson demonstrates how easily a dog car harness is attached to a seat belt in the back seat of a car with dog Buddy. Ferguson's own dog Theo died in the back seat of her mom's car when her mother slammed on the brakes to avoid a cyclist suffering a major blow to his head. After hearing from her veterinarian that a dog car harness could have saved her dog's life

Wearing a seat belt could save a life – your dog’s, says Saanich advocate

Less than one month ago, Theo, a pomeranian mix, was enjoying his regular ride in the backseat of the family car.

But when Maria Ratzka slammed on the brakes of her new Nissan Sentra to avoid hitting a cyclist, Theo’s routine ride was through. The force of the quick stop propelled the nine-year-old dog forward into the centre console. The dog suffered a major blow to a soft spot on his head. Ratzka and her daughter Alicia Ferguson, who was a passenger in the front seat, watched helplessly as Theo went into a seizure.

They rushed him to a nearby veterinary clinic, but it was too late. Theo was dead.

“Right after that, one of the vet techs told us that they actually have seat belts for dogs. We had no idea,” Ferguson said. “We never thought about it. We had never heard of (a car harness) or seen a commercial or anything.”

Lisa Welland, a veterinarian with Burnside Pet Clinic, says injuries sustained inside vehicles during collisions are rare for animals – she has yet to encounter any such cases at her clinic.

“Normally we’re on the other side of the fence with that and we’re treating animals who are outside of the vehicle during a collision,” she said.

Still, Welland says that restraining animals in a harness, crate or cage could save them from minor injuries that often go unnoticed, such as chipped teeth or neck pain.

Unsecured animals in cars are more often the cause of accidents, Welland said.

“How many times do you see dogs sitting in their owner’s lap looking out the driver’s side window or bouncing around in a car?” she said.

Joanna Pettit of local dog advocacy group Citizen Canine echoes Welland’s safety concerns over unrestrained dogs climbing over drivers.

“(Using harnesses) might be a challenge and it’s certainly doable, but better to start when they’re a puppy,” she said, adding that crating dogs seems to be a smoother process.

Most car harnesses are a three-in-one-style leash, vest and chest protector harness that clip easily into any vehicle’s seat. They run approximately $30-$40 and come in a range of sizes. At A Pet’s Life in Tuscany Village, sales of the harnesses are slow but steady with about five sold each month.

“A lot of times, I sell them (after) educating people about it because a lot of people don’t realize how dangerous it is to have your dog loose in the car,” manager Kimberly Pell said. “They are a projectile if you get in an accident.”

Ferguson, while still grieving the loss of her little buddy and not ready to own a new dog, wants to share her cautionary tale if it will protect other pets.

“Nothing had ever happened (to me) like that,” Ferguson added about the March 28 incident. “It was really a fluke accident.”

nnorth@saanichnews.com

Just Posted

500 pounds of turkey served at Cool Aid community Christmas dinner

Annual dinner serves hundreds of community members

VIDEO: Annual Tuba Christmas concert draws large crowd to Market Square

Over 100 tuba and euphonium players gathered to play festive tunes

Revisit Christmas past as Point Ellice House displays Victorian-era traditions

Antique bobbles, cards, decor and more are on display

Bold and brassy quintet touches down at UVic

Internationally recognized Canadian Brass performing with Victoria Symphony on Dec. 21

Saanich church kicks off holidays with peaceful Winter Solstice service

St. Luke’s song-filled Christmas services come later

VIDEO: Success of wildlife corridors in Banff National Park has advocates wanting more

Demand for more highway protection escalated after seven elk were killed by a semi-trailer near Canmore

Sharks beat Canucks 4-2 to snap 6-game skid

Vancouver visits Vegas on Sunday

Fans sing Canadian anthem after sound system breaks at BMW IBSF World Cup

The Canadians in attendance made sure their team and flag were honoured on the podium

VIDEO: Fire destroys Big White Ski Resort chalet

Social media eulogies peg the property, nicknamed “The Pharamacy,” as both loved and hated

Prince George RCMP use bait packages to catch porch pirates over the holidays

First-in-Canada program with Amazon looks to combat parcel theft

Nanaimo mechanical engineer creates thief tracking program

Nanaimo Thief Tracking lets users plot and share information about thefts online

Mayor wants B.C. to institutionalize severely mental ill people who are homeless

Those suffering from mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia, need specialized care, mayor says

Five things of note from Trudeau’s mandate letters to his ministers

Some marching orders come from the Liberal Party’s campaign, while others are new additions

Scheer’s resignation tips party into internal war over school tuition payments

The Conservatives have a Toronto convention already scheduled for April

Most Read