Transporting a pet by car is one of the safest ways you can get your furry friend from one location to the next. In fact, if you’re going a lengthy distance, the Humane Society of the United States recommends that you always drive your pet rather than fly because animals have been known to become lost or injured in the cargo areas of airplanes. But even though driving your pet is inherently safer than other modes of transportation, your pet could still be hurt if you don’t practice certain safety precautions. Here’s how to protect your pet – and yourself – the next time you hit the open road.
Learn the value of restraint. You may think your pet will be happier if he or she can openly roam your car, but if your pet suddenly becomes agitated and distracts you, both you and your pet could be in danger. Dogs that are comfortable with travel will likely do fine with a restraining harness that buckles into the seatbelt, says Mallory Kerley, a spokeswoman for the ASPCA.
However, cat lovers know that cats can be a moodier bunch. Because cats are more likely to be uncomfortable with the ride, the Humane Society recommends always keeping a cat in a carrier when you’re on the go so you don’t have to worry about a frightened cat’s claws digging into your back. Keep the carrier from jostling from side to side by securing it across the front with a seatbelt.
Small animals such as hamsters and birds should also be kept in escape-proof carriers, according to pet retailer Petco.
Know the safest part of the car. If you have small children, you likely know that the backseat is the safest part of the car. In fact, according to Debbie Jacobson, a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics, the middle of the backseat is furthest from any potential point of impact so the risk of death or serious injury is lowest there. Protect your two-legged and four-legged children by keeping them restrained and in the back seat of the car, leaving the front seat for adults and children 13 and over.
Keep your pet’s head inside. Sure, Fido may look like he’s enjoying the summer breeze when he sticks his head outside the car, but pets don’t always know what’s best for them. Always ensure that your dog keeps his head inside the car. Not only can your pet be injured by flying objects such as stones and sticks, but he could suffer injury to the lungs from having air forced into them, according to the Humane Society. Also keep all pets out of the back of an open pickup truck. AAA points out that pets in the back of a pickup truck can jump off if they’re unrestrained or possibly be thrown from the truck in a sudden stop, even if they are in a crate.
Don’t leave your pet in a parked car. We’ve all heard horrible stories about children and pets dying after being left in a hot car. In fact, the National Weather Service says that a car’s seat can easily reach between 180 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit on a hot day. Even if you think you’ll only be gone for a few minutes, take your pet with you if you have to leave your car unattended. The Humane Society also warns that leaving him in the car could prove to be tempting to a pet thief.
Keep your pet safe outside of the car. When traveling with your pet, you’ll have to get out of the car at some point. To keep your pet from getting lost or causing any trouble, make sure he is on a leash, or has a collar and pet identification tag. If you’re traveling with a smaller animal such as a hamster or bird, keep him in the carrier when you leave the car.
Our pets are a major source of joy in our lives. They deserve to be kept safe whether they’re home with us or on the go.
Laura Adams is senior insurance analyst for Bankrate and writes for the Bankrate blogs, including www.carinsurancequotes.com, a leading online provider of auto insurance quotes and news.