Drivers Fact Sheets

Carrying Pets Safely

The carrying of pets in motor vehicles cannot be taken too lightly for the following reasons:

In a crash, an unrestrained pet could be seriously injured, or injure people in the car. At 30 mph, for example, a 50lb (22.5 kg) border collie would be thrown forward with a force equivalent to almost nine 12 stone men.

Unrestrained pets can also distract the driver, and cause an accident. Even pets that are normally well behaved could be frightened by something unusual and dive for the driver’s feet or lap. Following a crash, an unrestrained pet could escape and be hit by another vehicle or cause another collision.

A frightened dog may attack strangers who are trying to help. Ensure that your pet is safely secured in a seatbelt harness, a pet carrier, a dog cage, behind a dog guard or (in an emergency only) in a suitable well-ventilated zip-up bag. The most suitable restraint will depend on the needs of your pet. A loose dog in the front passenger seat may be killed by the airbag.

A Safety Harness

For medium or large sized dogs it is recommended that a safety harness that attaches to the seatbelt is best. It should go round your dog’s chest, back and shoulders and be attached to the car seat belt, which should be fastened. Before you buy a harness, make sure it is designed to be used in a car. Check that it is suitable for your dog’s size and weight and ensure it fits properly, with wide straps to distribute the forces safely across your dog’s body, particularly the chest and shoulders. Try to make sure your dog cannot get entangled in the harness as this will be uncomfortable and could distract the driver.

Pet Carriers

For smaller dogs, cats and other pets, a good option is a pet carrier. It needs to be the correct size and should be held firmly in place with the seat belt or by wedging it firmly in the footwell. Never put a carrier in the boot of a saloon car as your pet could suffocate, and avoid putting it unsecured in the boot of a hatchback or estate car, as the carrier will be thrown around in a crash.

Some owners put self-scented material at the bottom of the carrier to help keep their pet calm.

Travel Cage Or Crate

A travel cage is suitable for dogs and larger animals. First of all you must make sure it is the correct size for your pet. Leave plenty of space around the crate to allow for ventilation, and ensure it is secured with the seat belt. In a hatchback or estate (not saloon) car, a cage can be attached to anchorage points in the boot.

Dog Guard

A dog guard will keep your pet away from the driver but it will not protect the animal in a crash. For some vehicles, accessory kits are available to help build a dog cage.

Getting Your Pet Safely In And Out Of Your Vehicle

Most pets, apart from dogs, should be put in a carrier before you put them in the vehicle. Keep your dog on a lead while it is getting in or out of the car, and ensure that it uses the door on the pavement side. Do not let it jump through the window.

After A Crash

Do not let your pet out of its carrier or cage until it has calmed down and is in a safe environment. If the accident is serious it is prudent to call out a vet.

Other Tips

  1. Don’t let your pet stick its head out of the window because dirt and insects can get into its eyes and nose
  2. If your vehicle has airbags, make sure that your pet will not be struck by the airbag if it goes off
  3. Check that your pet is covered by insurance if it is hurt in a car accident.
  4. Consider travel training for your pet

Zip-Up Bag

In an emergency, for example taking an injured animal to the vet, a zip-up shopping or sports bag can be used. However make sure it is big enough to hold your pet comfortably and it allows your pet to get enough air. Ensure that you strap it securely with the seatbelt.

In Hot Weather

Pets are just as vulnerable as children in cars in hot weather. It is dangerous or even life-threatening for animals left unattended in any vehicle in such conditions.

If a pet is left in a car with the windows open, even parked in the shade on a moderately hot day it can heat up to more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 centigrade) very quickly. It is also recommended that drivers ensure, at all times, there is a supply of cool water for pets.

In the car on a hot day, owners should always be on the lookout for warning signs of heat stress, including heavy panting, staggering or general weakness. If you notice any of these signs, get your pet to a cool spot and contact your vet.

General Information

Get your pet geared up for a long trip by taking him on a series of short drives first, gradually lengthening time spent in the car. Your pet’s travel-feeding schedule should start with a light meal three to four hours prior to departure. Don’t feed any pet in a moving vehicle, even if it is a long drive.

Don’t allow your pet to ride with his head outside the window. He could be injured by flying objects.

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