doctor marty becker
As an animal handler, my mission is to protect pets and people, not only from dog bites or poor training practices, but also from everyday activities like car travel. Common travel “tricks” such as using zip ties, carabiners and seat belts to secure boxes, or practices such as allowing pets to ride in the front seat, are particularly dangerous and can have devastating consequences. Here are safety strategies you can implement to keep furry family members safe during road trips.
The most important things in travel include preventing pets from escaping when getting in and out of the car or from escaping in the event of an accident; prevent them from wandering around the car while it is in motion; and keep pets and other passengers safe in the event of an accident. Start with smart practices and crash-proof safety gear that securely restrain pets and provide protection.
Security First. Prevent pets from riding shotgun (in the front seat). Whether they are on your lap or standing in the front passenger seat, or out the window, pets are at serious risk of fatal injuries if air bags deploy or are thrown from the vehicle.
So where should pets travel? The safest place for pets to travel is in the back seat or cargo space (never in the trunk) of a hatchback or SUV, especially when secured with a harness, carrier, or crate. Pets, such as cats or small dogs, are safer in soft carriers placed on the floor of the rear seat. Keep in mind, however, that only approved devices should be tethered, as non-safety-certified equipment that tethers poses a greater risk to pets.
Choice of equipment. Even equipment marketed for car travel may not protect your pet in the event of an accident if it is not used or donned correctly or has not been tested for safety. Injuries can occur if an unsecured carrier is catapulted from the seat or if the harness or crate collapses or crushes the pet. Unless a carrier, crate, or harness has been tested and approved by an organization such as the Center for Pet Safety (centerforpetsafety.org), the use of seat belts to restrain infant carriers, booster seats, or the pets themselves can intensify injuries to the pet and have the potential to cause serious spinal injuries.
Lindsey Wolko founded the Center for Pet Safety after her own dog was injured in a car accident. The nonprofit organization certifies travel products that provide crash protection. For more information visit naples.floridaweekly.com/articles/how-safe-is-your-pet-when-riding-in-the-car.
For my dogs, I have chosen the crash test sleepypod carriers for smaller family members and ClickIt harnesses for larger dogs to keep them securely in place during a trip and provide added safety in the event of a crash.
Crashproof devices may cost more, but the protection they provide for pets and other passengers may be worth the investment. However, if they’re not within your budget, consider other ways to protect pets, such as securing larger carriers in the cargo area of a vehicle with strength-rated straps to secure attachment points in the car in order to to provide the best outcome in the event of an accident Ideally, boxes or carriers should be placed on a level surface to reduce the risk of tipping or slipping off the seat.
Finally, be sure to take extra precautions. Always make sure your pet is wearing current identification tags and has a microchip with up-to-date information in case the pet runs away or is thrown from the car after an accident. Label carriers with a card that identifies you as the owner, provide contact information for someone who can care for your pet in case you are incapacitated, and list contact information for the pet’s veterinarian, as well as any health information important.
— By Mikkel Becker
Do you have a favorite question? Send it to [email protected] or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker. Pet Connection is produced by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, journalist Kim Campbell Thornton, and dog trainer/behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. ©2023 Andrews McMeel Syndication