Taking Fido on the road can be fun, but if not done safely it also presents risks to you, your passengers, other drivers, and your four-legged friend.
If you’re a pet owner, take a moment to consider some startling statistics revealed in a survey by the American Automobile Association, a federation of auto clubs throughout North America:
- 84% of dog owners travelling with their dogs are not restraining them.
- Only 16%of people who transport their dogs use proper safety restraints.
- 60%of dog owners have driven while distracted by their pets as passengers.
- 52%of dog owners have petted their dogs while driving.
- 17% of drivers allowed their dogs to sit in their lap while driving.
- 13% of drivers admitted to giving food or treats to their dogs while driving.
- 4% percent of drivers acknowledged playing with their dog while driving.
Travelling safely and responsibly with your pet is not just about reducing the risk of harm or fatal injury to your dog; it is about the safety of humans as well. Another thing to keep in mind is such distracted driving is dangerous. If you’re paying attention to Fido and not the road and get in an accident, you could be looking at careless or dangerous driving charges and some hefty fines. And that, of course, can affect your auto insurance premiums or even the willingness of your carrier to insure you in the future.
What are the laws?
It’s important to remember that in many provinces and Ontario, for example, there are laws relating, but not specific, to the transportation of animals. The Ontario SPCA and Humane Society points out that under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act there are two charges that can apply but aren’t specific to animals:
- Insecure Load (section 111(2) of the HTA) Offence: Dog is loose in the back of a truck. No animal should be loose in the box of a pickup truck. Animals need to secure by way of a crate and the crate also needs to be secured.
- Careless driving (section 130 of the HTA) Offence: Dog on the lap of a driver. Having an animal on the lap of a driver puts the operator of the vehicle, the occupants, and other drivers at risk of injury. Animals should be in the back seat secured by way of the crate or seatbelt harness.
Travelling with a pet involves more than just loading them in the car. The good news is that with some proper preparation, you can prepare for a safe and smooth car trip. According to the ASPCA, here are some tips:
- Keep your pets safe and secure in a well-ventilated crate or carrier. There is a variety of wire mesh, hard plastic, and soft-sided carriers available. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s large enough for your pet to stand, sit, lie down, and turn around in. It’s a good idea to get your pet used to the carrier at home before your trip.
- If your pet is not in a carrier, use a seat belt or safety harness specifically designed for car rides. If your pet won't tolerate these options, you should crate your dog and secure it in the back of your vehicle.
- Don't allow your pet to ride with his head outside the window. (How many times have we seen that?) He could be injured – even fatally by flying objects. Keep him in the back seat in his crate or with a harness attached to a seat buckle.
- Never leave your animal alone in a parked vehicle. On a hot day, even with the windows open, a parked automobile can quickly become a furnace and heatstroke can develop. In cold weather, it can act as a refrigerator, holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death.
- Get your pet geared up for a long trip by taking him on a series of short drives first. Then, gradually lengthen the time spent in the car. Always secure the crate so it won’t slide or shift in the event of a quick stop.
- Don’t feed your furry friend in a moving vehicle - even if it is a long drive.Your pet’s travel-feeding schedule should start with a light meal three to four hours prior to departure.
- Have a pet travel kit. That includes food, a bowl, leash, waste scoop, plastic bags, grooming supplies, medication, and a pet first-aid kit, pack a favorite toy or pillow to give your pet a sense of familiarity.
- Make sure your pet has a microchip for identification and wears a collar with an ID tag. It should be imprinted with your home address, cell phone, and any other relevant contact information.
- Ensure you have your pet’s vaccination record or wearing his rabies tag. It’s better to be prepared.
- When it comes to H2O, BYO. Take bottled or tap water stored in plastic jugs. Drinking water from an area Fido’s not used to could result in tummy upset.
- Invest in rubberized floor liners/waterproof seat covers if you travel frequently with your pet. These are available at auto product retailers.
One of the best ways to ensure trips go smoothly is to train your dog – if possible - in its early years to behave calmly by riding in the car. That way everyone – including Fido – gets to the destination safely.
Another thing to consider is insuring your furry friend. Having a pet insurance policy is a wise decision for your peace of mind should an accident occur. It will guarantee coverage of veterinary expenses up to the specified limit.
Through HUB SmartCoverage, Pets Plus Us offers coverage of $5,000 a year should your pet require emergency veterinary care. This includes consultations, exams, emergency care, hospitalization, medications, surgery, and more. After all, isn’t your four-legged friend part of the family?
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