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How to keep your pets car safe on a road trip

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Updated 25 Jun 2020

Rachel White

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As car owners become more and more attached to their pets, it means more people are involving their pets into everyday activities.

This may include taking your pets everywhere you go, for company, to get exercise, or to save the furniture from being shredded if you were to leave them alone at home.

Most people don’t consider the safety aspect when transporting pets, it’s not until you have Jane’s hamster playing hide and seek behind the brake pedal, ‘Lucky’ the dog hanging by his legs out the window trying to chase a cat on the footpath, or little Johnny screaming in the back seat because his pet iguana has mistaken his finger for a worm.

Think Safety

As vehicle operators, we have a responsibility to drive in a safe manner. We are in control of a large, heavy, moving vehicle and we are responsible for keeping our eyes on the road and being aware of what’s going on around us.

Just as the use of mobile phones whilst driving is illegal due to us needing to concentrate on the job at hand, it’s also illegal for us to have our pets sitting on our laps whilst driving.

Depending on which state you are in, there are also different laws when it comes to other areas of travelling with pets.

But no matter where you are in Australia you must have your pet restrained suitably to avoid driver distraction, interference or hindrance.

Restrain Your Pet

If you really love your travel buddies you’ll restrain them. There are thousands of dog injuries each year resulting from vehicle accidents.

Not only is it an additional expense, there’s the stress and care needed for an injured pet, plus there’s the added possibility of being fined for not having your pet restrained correctly.

Additionally, your unrestrained pet can become a very heavy projectile hazard if you stop suddenly.

Even at low speeds, your pet could easily fly through the windscreen if you are involved in an accident. You are accountable if you decide to ignore the legal requirements to restrain a pet.

So what do you do to restrain your pets to comply with legal requirements and ensure you keep all your travel companions safe?

There are numerous types of restraints on the market for all types of pets but make sure you do your homework as they don’t all perform as expected.

For example, if you’re looking at a seat belt harness make sure it complies with regulations and is crash tested.

Seat belt harnesses are worn by dogs, allowing them to sit on the seat and still be secure. The dog wears a body harness which has a strap that is looped around the seatbelt that’s securely clasped.

This will stop the dog from flying too far forward with sudden braking. If you are travelling with smaller pets you should use a cat carrier which ideally should be located behind a cargo barrier.

If that can’t be managed you can secure the carrier from flying forward by utilising the seatbelt.

If you have a dog you can use a dog carrier or crate, as long as it is big enough for the dog to stand up, turn around and lie down then the dog should be comfortable and safe.

Thankfully the transporting of dogs by ute has definitely improved over recent times, however, most dog transport injuries are due to our canine friends not being restrained correctly on the back of utes.

Either cages or tethering of dogs is essential to comply with legal requirements.

When tying a dog up to a ute, the lead or chain needs to be secured to a middle point of the cabin.

The lead or chain must be secured to a properly fitted collar or harness at the right length, so the dog cannot reach the sides of the vehicle.

This stops the dog from possible hanging if it was to fall off the side of the ute. Make sure attachments have swivels so the dog can’t get tangled.

Always remember your dog is on the back and if possible try to avoid sudden or jerking movements, secure loose objects in the tray, avoid driving too close to branches and provide a heat resistant mat to keep your best friend happy and healthy.

Whilst carriers, crates and cages are great tools for keeping your travel buddies contained and safe, remember that spending long hours in a confined space is not ideal for anyone.

If you’re driving a long distance, stop every 2 hours so you and your fur baby can stretch your legs and have a toilet break.

Never leave your pets in the car alone for extended periods without fresh air and water and never on a hot day.

If you have a convertible or utility make sure your pets have shade and are safe from outside conditions.

Remember, it’s your responsibility to secure your pets, keep them safe and make sure they’re comfortable so you get to enjoy each other’s companionship for many years to come.

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Written By

Rachel White

Rachel spent her early adult life around cars, motorsport and hands-on with her own cars. This interest moved into various careers within the Automotive industry. Joined with her passion for writing, Rachel loves putting the two together to share her experience, so we can all become AutoGuru’s.