Pet restraints for the car, do you really need one?

SEATTLE -- Whether it's a camping trip or just a quick stop at the store, we love to take our pets everywhere, but are you stopping to make sure your dog is safe in the car?

We asked the folks at PEMCO Insurance, 'do you need a pet restraint before hitting the road?'

"Dogs can easily distract their owner if they're driving," Kristine Zewe, a PEMCO quality analyst said. "Or if they get frightened they can become wedged under the gas peddle or break peddle making the car very hard to control. If the dog's in your lap and the airbag goes off, the airbag won't be able to do it's job for you and the consequences for your pet are horrible."

Zewe recommends putting your dog in a crate if they're going in the car. But even if that's not an option, at the very least, make sure your pet is in the back seat and strapped into a harness.

"If a pet crate isn't an option, head to your local pet store," Zewe said. "They have specially made harnesses that plug right into your seat belt and will protect your pet. Check out Consumer Reports because just like child safety seats, not all harnesses are created equal in the event of a crash."

As for dogs that love to stick their head out the window? Zewe says it's not a good idea. Rocks, bugs, other road debris can cause serious eye injuries. And, she says, cold air forced into their lungs can cause respiratory problems.

So are pet restraints worth it in the car? The folks at PEMCO say 'yes.' And they say, think about it like this: you would never leave a child unrestrained in the car. So treat your pet with the same level of care.