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How to Travel Safely With Pets

By JaneBowers. | Traveling with Dogs

Spring is just around the corner and that means some of us may be planning road trips with our dogs. Part of that planning should include how to travel safely with pets. A survey by the American Automobile Association showed that over 80% of dog owners drive with their dog in the car but only 16% of drivers traveling with their pets restrained their pets in their vehicle. The remaining 84% did not restrain their dogs!

An unrestrained dog can be distracting to the driver and increasing the risk of a crash. The Triple AAA Foundation for Safety found that a driver looking away from the road for even one second doubles the risk of a crash. Inside a moving vehicle, unrestrained dogs are a hazard to themselves and to others. In fact, according to the BCSPCA website, a 50-pound pet, when traveling at speeds of 50 km/h, has the weight of approximately one ton (BCSPCA 2009). Pets and passengers can get hurt or killed when dogs are unrestrained and the vehicle they are riding in slows quickly, swerves or comes to a sudden stop. If the dog is riding in the front seat they can be killed if the airbag is deployed so the back seat is safer for the dog. An unrestrained dog can bolt out of the vehicle when the door is opened and be hit by another vehicle. If the vehicle is involved in a crash, the frightened dog can be in shock and run and hide. In some areas, pets must be restrained while traveling in a vehicle and having an unrestrained dog may invalidate the car insurance but this is not the law everywhere. 

The good news is that there are many things people can do to be safe when traveling with a dog.

A seatbelt harness or a secure crate will restrain the dog when traveling. If there is any chance the dog will chew through a seatbelt, opt for a crate.

Buy a crate or seatbelt harness that is the right size and is crash-tested. There are no government safety standards for crates and seatbelt harnesses but an independent volunteer organization called “Center for Pet Safety” has testing and publishes results.

Attach an information sheet about your pet (address, vet information, vaccination, medical and food information, the name of a friend or commercial care place that can look after him if you can’t) to the crate.

Make sure your dog has identification. Microchips work well as they can’t come loose and many impounds and shelters and veterinary offices will search for a microchip when a dog is found. Make sure the information about the company is up to date. Collar tags make it easy for someone to reach the owner if the information is current and visible. In many places, dogs are tattooed inside their ears when altered and the tattoo is linked to the veterinary hospital who have the owner information. Have up to date photos taken from different angles so your pet can be identified if he or she goes missing.

Dogs should never be transported in the bed of a truck without using a secured crash-tested crate. Dogs are at risk of getting debris into their eyes, bolting from the bed and hanging themselves on a leash or getting hit in traffic, and being exposed to the elements if transported in this way. In many places, it is also against the law. In BC, Canada, Section 72 of the Motor Vehicle Act prohibits the transport of an unsecured pet in the back of a pick-up truck (www.bclaws.ca n.d.).

Have happy and safe travels with your pet!

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Jane BowersJane Bowers, B.A., CABC, CPDT-KA

Jane Bowers has been training dogs for over two decades. She teaches people to train their dogs in group and private training courses and has a keen interest in assisting dogs with behavioral issues. Her company is Dogs of Distinction Canine Training Inc. Jane has a monthly newspaper column on dog-related topics and is a former host of a live call in TV show on animals. She is a strong advocate for force-free and humane training methods for all animals. Jane has a degree in psychology and is certified as a dog trainer through the "Certification Council of Professional Pet Dog Trainers" and as a behaviour consultant through the "International Association of Behavior Consultantsand through the "Association of Animal Behavior Professionals". These organizations require a minimum number of continuing education units be obtained to retain certification. She is also a professional member of "The Pet Professional Guild," an organization committed to force-free training of animals and the "Association of Professional Dog Trainers," a professional organization of individual trainers who are committed to being better trainers through education. Jane is the content creator of the online course "Assessing and Interpreting Dog Behaviour," which is a course for law enforcement personnel who meet unfamiliar dogs in the course of their duties. She is the author of "Perfect Puppy Parenting," a guide to raising a happy, confident, well-behaved dog. Jane spent 17 years working for Customs Border Services and in joint teams with US Homeland Security and the RCMP. She spent a further 8 years working as an Animal Control Officer and Bylaw Enforcement Officer. Jane lives on a small farm with dogs, sheep, donkeys, and chickens. The dogs each came from situations that prevented them from living in their original homes. The dogs range in size and age and with the dog training and behavioral work, whether it's participating in the development of an online training course, working with a client's dog or tracking a lost pet or animal.

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