Pets & Driving Safety

When a person or family owns a pet, it is inevitable that it will need to travel with them at some point. Whether it is a necessary trip to the vet or a family vacation, the pet owner will want to ensure that the animal is as safe and comfortable as possible. Ensuring the safety of one’s pet depends on several factors that range from the type of animal and its size, to its personality and comfort level. Regardless of these factors, the pet owner must understand what it takes to travel safely with their animal in tow. This means understanding that safety involves more than the actions taken while on the road, but also restraining the animal properly and preparing it for travel in advance.

Proper preparation is a good start in terms of getting the animal accustomed to car travel, particularly when it comes to dogs. When pets are unfamiliar with car travel or have a negative reaction to the car itself, people can slowly familiarize them by letting them get into the vehicle and adjust to being inside of it while it is not in motion. Once an animal is comfortable with an unmoving vehicle, short trips around the neighborhood are useful and will help them adjust to the movement of the car. Rewards after a successful trip will also help the pet associate car travel with something positive and, for some animals, it may even make them eager to go on a ride. Some animals, however, may never overcome their anxiety. These animals can become a liability while traveling as they often become a distraction to the driver. In these cases it may be safer to leave the animal with friends or family or board them if traveling for long periods. If travel with the animal is unavoidable, discuss options with the veterinarian regarding how to help it relax.

Restraining a pet is crucial to car travel for both the safety of the animal and the passengers in the vehicle. A pet who is allowed to travel without being properly restrained can easily be tossed around the car, striking objects that cause it injury or death. In addition, a pet that is unrestrained can plow into passengers with the force of its body and cause unnecessary death or serious injury. Medium to large breeds of dogs may be restrained using a dog harness or a seat belt designed for canine use. Medium, large and small breed dogs may also safely travel in a crate or dog carrier that has been secured to the back seat or cargo area of the vehicle. Cats must also travel inside of a carrier as they are naturally uncomfortable with traveling and may attempt to flee if given the opportunity. Pets should never be allowed to roam freely while cars are in motion as they can become entangled under the driver’s feet. When using a carrier or crate, it should be large enough for the animal to relax in and turn around in comfortably. The toys and familiar blanket or bedding should be placed in the carrier to increase the animal’s comfort. An anxious or restless animal can become a driving hazard and distraction, therefore frequent stops can help it remain relaxed on long trips by allowing it to exercise its legs and eliminate. While traveling, animals that are harnessed should not be allowed to stick their heads out of windows as they can be injured by flying debris. They should also never be left inside of a vehicle unattended. Even with a window cracked a car can quickly heat up to temperatures that can kill.

Preparing for the Trip

Securing Your Pet

During the Trip

By Ted Burgess