MANY dog owners are putting themselves at risk by failing to restrain their pet correctly when travelling in the car.
A new survey by Ford has revealed that almost one in three dog-owning drivers do not safely restrain their animals when on the road.
The practice has led to animals knocking controls, block the view ahead and even leap from vehicles when on the move.
And in an accident, an unrestrained animal can thrown around at up 40 times its body weight putting itself and other occupants at risk.
Ford recommends that dog owners should fit a cage in the back of their car or restrain the animal with a harness to keep them safe - a requirement which is legally enforceable in some countries.
Of those dog owners surveyed, 32 per cent said their pet did not like being restrained, 31 per cent claimed there was no need on short journeys and 14 per cent said they did not have room in their vehicle for a dog crate.
More than one in four of those who carried their dog unsecured admitted that their pet had poked its head out of the window and some said pets had jumped out of the window resulting, on occasion, in the animal being killed or injured.
Owners also admitted being involved in accidents after being distracted by their pets, that dogs had turned on indicators, obscured the view ahead and bitten occupants.
Ford points out that insurance claims can be invalidated if pets are not safely restrained in the vehicle and when developing its new Focus Estate the company enlisted the help of engineer Rene Berns to make sure the vehicle could carry the largest possible dog crate.
Rene, who owns an Australian Shepherd called Emil, helped to maximise boot space in the Focus wagon by compressing the foam layer of the roof liner, altering the length of the hinge screws and reshaping the boot opening so that it can carry even an Irish Wolfhound, the world's tallest breed of dog.
"I know how much it means to me to be able to take Emil with me wherever I am going, and I'm proud that he has helped make that easier for other dog owners and their pets to travel safely and in comfort," said Rene, who works for Ford at its European headquarters in Cologne.
And dog training expert Graeme Hall, aka The Dogfather, added: "If you have a pet, please think of its safety in the same way you would about any other member of the family. I always carry my dog Lily in the boot in her crate. She can comfortably move around and everyone's safe. I believe that's the best solution."