Data, safety regulations lacking when it comes to pets and vehicles

Critical care technician advises properly securing pets

By Coco Lederhouse
Published: 20 October 2023

Car accidents remain a major cause of human death and injury in the United States. In fact, the top three leading causes of preventable injury-related death–poisoning, motor vehicle, and falls–account for over 86% of all preventable deaths, according to the National Safety Council.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 42,939 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2022. And the estimated number of people injured on U.S. roadways increased in 2021 to 2.50 million, from 2.28 million in 2020, an increase of 9.4%. The estimated number of police-reported traffic crashes increased from 5.25 million in 2020 to 6.10 million in 2021, according to the NHTSA, a 16% increase.

What these data fail to capture is the number of pets injured or killed in car accidents every year. Neither the NHTSA nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—from which the NSC gathered its data—collect or report this information. Yet, 45% of U.S. households own dogs and 26% of households own cats out of a total U.S. population of 128 million pet-owning households in 2020, according to the 2022 AVMA Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook.

Owners often drive with their pets, yet when it comes to restraining pets in cars, "There's recommendations but there are no rules," says Dr. Elisa Mazzaferro, immediate past president of the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society (VECCS). She has been an emergency and critical care clinician since 1998.

To see the full version of this story, visit the AVMA News website.