Products to Help Your Pets Ride With You
Once you've figured out what car features you want, there are plenty of aftermarket products to help you tote your pet.
Traveling by car with your pet no longer means simply letting that four-legged friend hang out in the hatchback; the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association estimates pet owners spent about $45 billion in 2011 on food, care and supplies for their animals, and a chunk of it will go toward things like car seats, seat belts and other automotive accessories designed for pets.
Several states, including California and Florida, have laws on the books that require pets in cars to be restrained, and other states are working to pass similar laws.
However, there are several options that can help you comply with these regulations.
One option is a backseat hammock, which usually attaches to a car's front and rear headrests, keeping pets in the backseat and off the vehicle's floor. One company, Solvit, sells a hammock for about $50 that features multiple attachment points with adjustable straps to fit in most back seats and two pockets for storage. Similar products are available from other retailers, including PetSmart, whose Pet Travel Hammock retails for about $50.
Several variations on those ideas are available, including the front seat booster for small dogs, allowing them to have a comfortable view of the road while still being safely restrained to the seat with a leash connected to the booster seat.
While these kinds of products are geared toward the comfort-and-luxury crowd, other companies have safety in mind.
Colorado-based Ruff Rider offers a vehicle restraint harness for dogs, the Roadie, which was rated the best in the industry by Tufts University's School of Veterinary Medicine in 2000.
"My harness is orthopedically sound and ergonomically correct," said Carl Goldberg, Roadie creator and Ruff Rider owner. "It will never interfere with the neck or back of any dog while in use. It has no collar to choke and it fits around the clavicle and shoulders of the dog, which is the strongest part."
Goldberg invented the Roadie in 1990 after being involved in a car accident in which his dog was thrown into the windshield. He worked with a veterinary orthopedic surgeon and design engineer on the harness, which went to market in 1996.
The Roadie attaches to a vehicle's seat belt system and includes a built-in short walking lead. Goldberg said it exceeds federal standards for human seat belts, enduring more than 6,500 pounds of force before breaking. The standard for a combined lap and shoulder belt is 3,000 pounds.
The basic Roadie sells for $29.95, while the Roadie Elite sells for $39.95. Pet restraints are available from several other companies as well, starting as low as $10.
If you're looking to create a separate space for your pet, vehicle partitions for SUVs will do the trick. These go behind the last row of seats and extend to the vehicle's ceiling, creating an enclosed space for pets. Partitions start at about $70 on tripswithpets.com, and add-on pieces to adjust their size cost about $25.
Other automotive-themed pet accessories include window vents that help keep cars secure while giving pets fresh air. These cost between $5 and $10 and are available from several vendors online.