Whether it is a trip to the vets, to the local park, or further out of Bristol, at some point most pet owners will need to take their pet with them in the car. So, what do you need to think about before travelling with your pet in a car?
We are all used to buckling up in the car after the law changed many years ago. Some of us do remember the days before the law changed but it was a long time ago! Cars are just as dangerous to pets and it is just as important that our dog or cat is properly restrained whilst travelling in a vehicle to help keep both him and you safe whilst travelling.
How can we travel safely with our pet in the car?
There are products available to restrain your pet in the car. These include:
- Pet Harnesses
- Pet Seatbelts
- Crates and carriers
- Dog guards – you must be aware that whilst using a dog guard will help protect any passengers and the car driver, it won’t protect your pet.
Why do we need to restrain a pet whilst driving? Well, there are many reasons which include:
- For the safety of your pet – using a pet seat belt or carrier can prevent serious injury to your pet if you are involved in an accident. Generally, pets are safer on the back seat as riding in the front passenger seat can be a distraction. If you do harness your pet in the front seat check your car manufacturer’s instructions about the airbag as you may need to disable it.
- For the safety of the car driver and any passengers – if you are involved in an accident a pet that is loose in the car could cause serious injury.
- To prevent an accident – a loose pet can cause distraction to the driver which can cause an accident or could get in the way of the brake pedal or steering wheel.
- It is the law – Rule 57 of The Highway Code states “When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly”. If the Highway Code is not followed then you could be considered to be driving without due care and attention. If your pet distracts you causing an accident this could be considered as dangerous driving.
- To be covered by your car insurance policy – your car insurance policy may require you to restrain your pet properly and you could break the terms of your insurance if your pet is loose in the car. If you had an accident due to a pet being loose in your car your insurance may be invalid leaving you a huge bill to pay. Pet insurance may also be invalidated if they are injured and need treatment.
What else should be considered before taking your pet on a journey? Making the car travel as comfortable for your pet will not only help your pet but also the rest of the family travelling together! Some pets have no problems travelling in the car, but others hate it! What can you do to try and make the journey more relaxed and comfortable for your pet?
- Introduce your pet to travelling in the car from a young age if possible – pets who are introduced to travelling in the car from a young age are much more likely to be relaxed and happy during car trips. This is part of “socialisation”. You can start with introducing them to a parked car and getting used to sitting in it with you. Then start going on short trips and build up to longer trips. Ending a trip with a treat or a walk can help make the experience as positive as possible. Hopefully your pet will associate going in the car as “fun”!
- Some pets get car sick so avoid feeding them just before a car journey. If your pet gets car sick even on an empty tummy then you can talk to your vet for advice about medication. Regular breaks may help if your pet does suffer from car sickness.
- On long journeys it is important to stop every couple of hours to allow everyone in the car an opportunity to get out for a leg stretch, a drink and toilet break. Some service stations have a dog walking area, or you could stop at a dog friendly attraction or park to break the journey up.
- Keep the car cool – pets can get very warm very quickly in a car. Be aware of your pet’s temperature and open the window or use the air conditioning to keep them cool. Sun blinds can prevent your pet being in direct sunlight.
- Never leave you pet in the car – cats and dogs are unable to cool themselves down like humans. They can overheat VERY quickly if left in a car which can lead to death in a very short time. Leaving the windows down or parking in the shade does not do enough to keep your pet cool.
- Don’t ever let your dog stick his head out of the window – he could hit his head on something, at high speed, with awful consequences. He could fall out of the window. He could distract other drivers.
- Always get your pet out of the car on the pavement side of the car, and never the roadside. This is for your safety as well as theirs. Training your dog to wait in the car until you tell them it’s safe to exit is helpful as it gives you time to get them safely on the lead, assess traffic or other dangers and get them out safe and stress-free!
Scamps and Champs Bristol provide a reliable pet taxi service. If you would like to know more contact 0333 200 5827