Many pets love riding in the car. However, driving with your pet can often lead to distraction and danger if you are not careful. Here are some tips to help both you and your pet arrive safely to your destination.
Tip #1: Never leave your pets alone in the car!
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), when the outside temperature is 85 degrees Fahrenheit, the interior of a parked car can reach a sizzling 102 degrees in just 10 minutes and 120 degrees within half an hour. And that’s even if you leave the windows cracked an inch or two. Such temperatures put your dog or cat at serious risk of death from hyperthermia.
Furthermore, it is against the law in Florida and many other states to leave an animal in a hot car. Consequently, not only are you putting your pet in danger, you are putting yourself at risk for being charged and convicted of animal cruelty and/or a hefty fine.
Florida Statute 828.13. Confinement of animals without sufficient food, water, or exercise; abandonment of animals
(a) Impounds or confines any animal in any place and fails to supply the animal during such confinement with a sufficient quantity of good and wholesome food and water,
(b) Keeps any animals in any enclosure without wholesome exercise and change of air, or
(c) Abandons to die any animal that is maimed, sick, infirm, or diseased, is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or by a fine of not more than $5,000, or by both imprisonment and a fine.
Who hasn’t seen a dog sticking his head through a moving car’s rolled-down window? The dog is obviously having the time of his life, but this fun can be dangerous to your pet’s health. Don’t give your dog the freedom to stick his head out of the window or otherwise roam in your car.
A pet roaming around a car puts you, your pet, and others on the road in danger and creates several risks such as:
- A pet with his/her head outside the window can cause serious eye injuries, damage its inner ear and even expose him/her to lung infections.
- A pet outside of the window puts it at risk of being struck by flying debris.
- A moving dog or cat can be thrown violently if you have a wreck or suddenly stop your car.
- Most importantly, it can create a dangerous distraction to a driver. A sudden sniff of your ear or lick of your nose can be all it takes to divert your attention from the road for too long resulting in a serious accident. Shockingly, approximately 30,000 accidents are caused each year by an unrestrained dog sitting in the front seat, according to the American Automobile Association.
So what should you do? The ASPCA recommends you place your dog or cat in a “well-ventilated crate or carrier” that gives your pet just enough room to stand up and turn around. In addition to limiting a pet’s movements, crates and carriers also provide protection in the event of a crash. For large dogs, a crate may not be an option; in these instances, restrain your dog with a harness that attaches to the car’s seat belts. Although they don’t provide the same degree of crash protection as crates, harnesses can at least limit your pet’s movements; eliminate them from becoming a projectile dangerous to themselves and others; and prevent him from suddenly bolting from the vehicle when you open the car door.
Tip #3: Allowing proper walk, food, and bathroom breaks
When taking a road trip with your pet, make sure you have a gallon of cold water with you to keep your dog or cat sufficiently hydrated and be prepared to make regular stops. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) says you should stop every two to three hours to allow your dog to use the bathroom and get some exercise. AVMA also recommends keeping a familiar blanket or toy by your pet to help it feel more comfortable and calm during the drive.
Before embarking on a long trip, you should take some shorter drives around town with your pet to see how he responds, says Dr. Meg Wright, a veterinarian with the Powers Ferry Animal Hospital in Atlanta. “Is he anxious? Does he get car sick?” she says. “These are things you want to find out before you embark on a long trip with your canine or feline friend. In these cases, your vet may be able to prescribe a light sedative.”
By following these steps, you can better ensure safe travels for your human and animal family members, while improving the safety of others on the road around you.