Driving with a dog in the car? Here’s what to know

If owners take their pet along for a car ride, experts recommend properly restraining pets and purchasing veterinary medical insurance for animals who may be injured in a car accident. Some 56% of dog owners in an AAA survey reported they brought their dog in the car at least monthly within the previous year. Many automobile insurance companies offer coverage for pets injured in vehicles, but prices and coverage vary, so owners should do their homework, experts say. Fox Business/CarInsurance.com (1/31)

Americans shared their homes with 377.4 million animals in 2011, according to  the American Pet Products Association survey.

Cats were the most popular pet, at 86.4 million, and dogs came in a close  second with 78.2 million.

But while a car ride with a cat is an exercise in tension, a dog goes along  for the fun of it. A recent AAA survey found that 56% of dog owners had driven  with companions at least once a month over the past year.

Unfortunately, most people are driving dangerously when Fido is riding  shotgun. 65% admitted engaging in distracting activities such as petting their  dog (52%) and using their hands to restrict the dog’s movement when braking  (23%).

Despite knowing better — 83% agree that driving with an unrestrained dog is  dangerous — only 16% use a restraining device.

The danger of an unrestrained pet is very real. According to Jennifer  Huebner-Davidson, AAA National Traffic Safety program manager, an unrestrained  10-pound dog in a crash at 50 mph will exert roughly 500 pounds of force, while  an unrestrained 80-pound dog in a crash at only 30 mph will exert approximately  2,400 pounds of force.

Adam Fell of Veterinary Pet Insurance  says the most common types of injuries suffered by pets in car accidents are  bruises and lacerations, chest and head trauma, major wounds, fractures and  ruptured organs. All of these require extensive — and expensive — medical  care.

So is my pet covered?

If the accident was your fault, your vet bills are your own problem, says  Penny Gusner, consumer analyst at CarInsurance.com. A pet is considered personal  property, and collision and comprehensive typically cover damage only to the  vehicle.

On the other hand, if the other driver was at fault, you can make a claim  against their property damage liability  coverage.  The bills for your car and the bills for your pet would come out of the same pot  of money, so if the at-fault driver’s limits aren’t high enough to pay  everything, you would still be on the hook.

Fortunately, a number of car insurers value your pet like a member of the  family and include some coverage on their collision policies.

Progressive was the first insurer to add pet coverage back in 2007. Other  insurers have jumped on the bandwagon, but availability varies by insurer and by  state.

Here is a quick rundown of the major insurers that will cover your pet in  an accident:

  • AAA Insurance – Dogs and cats only. This is not a national program so check  with your local club. $500 injury or burial.
  • Auto-Owners – Coverage is for cats and dogs only. $750 for injury or burial  per animal or $1,500 per incident.
  • Erie – Coverage is for dogs and cats only. Up to two pets per claim. $500  each for medical care or $1,000 per loss.
  • Progressive – Coverage is for dogs and cats only. $1000 per loss for medical  care or burial. Coverage also extends to boats and RVs. Dogs and cats of  relatives that live with you are protected as well.
  • Chubb – Coverage extends coverage to all pets except animals used to  generate income such as racing dogs or horses. $2,000 for injury or death.
  • Safeco – Coverage is for dogs and cats only. $500 for injury or death.

While pet coverage is a great perk, Gusner says, it’s shouldn’t be a deciding  factor when you comparison shop for car insurance. (See “Pocket $1,102 just by shopping  around.”)

“The difference in rates between companies can be hundreds or even thousands  of dollars,” Gusner says. “You might be able to buy separate pet insurance with  the savings and have money left over.”

According to Dr. Jules Benson of Petplan Pet Insurance, pet  insurance covers treatment for all accidental injuries including those sustained  in car accidents, as well as illnesses.

Costs vary by pet age and size and the deductible you choose; $8,000 in  coverage for an 8-year-old Lab would run about $42 a month.

Keeping your best friend safe

The best way to keep your pet safe is to use a harness or crate when rolling  with your pet. Experts recommend crating dogs or cats and putting them in the  rear cargo area. In smaller cars, buckling them up in the backseat using a  harness is the safest way to travel.

Harnesses are widely available and are priced from $15 and up depending on  the pet size.

Dog trainer and pet expert Amy Robinson offers a  few do’s and don’ts for keeping your pet safe while in the car:

Do:

  • Measure your dog for a cushioned, well-fitted car harness.
  • Use treats to entice the dog to put his head through the harness.
  • Go on a short walk wearing the harness to let him get used it.
  • Use a crate as an alternative, but secure it in the car.

Don’t:

  • Feed your dog a big meal just before departing.
  • Put a dog unrestrained in the front seat, air bags can injury pets.
  • Allow the dog to sit on your lap. This can be a huge distraction.
  • Tie your dog down using his leash and collar.
  • Roll the window all the way down. This is an accident waiting to  happen.

Read more:  https://www.carinsurance.com/Articles/pets-car-coverage.aspx?WT.qs_osrc=fxb-163582110#ixzz2KAT6B8SV

 

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