DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Being strapped-in is a “must” whenever we get behind the wheel of an automobile.  But what about the family pet?

There’s a growing movement to buckle up the family dog or cat—or put them in carriers—whenever we travel.  Crash tests show a disturbing image, even if the dogs are stuffed animals.   Not only can your puppy or cat be hurt, they can become projectiles and hurt others.

The issue hit home with Terri Stringer when she was involved in a wreck.  Her dogs weren’t in the car, but her luggage was—then strewn all over busy LBJ Freeway.  “And at that point I realized, because I take my dogs with me, If I’d had a dog with me they’d have been killed and that really upset me.”

So now her dog, Reese, and her other canine friends get strapped in when it’s time to go for a ride.   Restraints also keep small dogs from trying to get into a driver’s lap, a distraction that itself can cause an accident.

Veterinarian Jim Murray of the Abrams Royal Animal clinic believes its safer for the dog…and driver.  “The thing about it is when you get into your car in the morning to go do your daily stuff, do you think you’re going to have an accident?” he asks.  “I think it’s an excellent idea for the people who will do it,” he concludes.  “It’s much safer for the dog.”

In Hawaii it’s illegal for dogs to ride in a driver’s lap.  Two other states are considering it.   Three more make it a fine.  There’s no law in Texas—and none planned yet for the upcoming legislature—but there are ordinances in Dallas and Fort Worth prohibiting unrestrained dogs in the beds of pickup trucks.

At the dog park in Addison, Brandon Wilcox agrees dogs shouldn’t be in laps or in the front seat, but is fine with them riding elsewhere in a vehicle.  “I believe they should be in the back seat.  I don’t think they should be restrained.    It’s not beneficial for the dog even in an accident,” he says.  “If they’re in the back seat they’re safer unrestrained.  So I believe in them being in the back seat.”

Fellow dog lover David Darien’s canine friend also rides unrestrained in back.  “He’s got the …. passenger seat and he’s got the back; and his size and temperment, I don’t have a problem with it; that’s just my personal experience. If I had a big dog I’d probably restrict him to the back.”   But for Terri Stringer, the evidence of her experience is clear: restraints, she says, are good.

“This keeps them safe it keeps them in the back where they belong, it also keeps them from being thrown out of the car or into the floorboard.”  Animal groups suggest using a harness for dogs, and not attaching something to a collar where the animal’s neck could snap in a hard stop.

Quality harnesses also have padding for the dog’s shoulder area, and there are options of using extenders that work with the tension retrieval mechanism of safety belts…that way the dog can still roam a back seat but be restrained in the event of a sudden stop.