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Travelling With Pets!

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Travelling safely with man’s best friend

When you think of the words ‘dog’ and ‘car’ together you might conjure up a lovely visual of your best furry buddy, head outside the window, tongue lolling about in the wind. But unfortunately without a restraint, this image could turn decidedly not-so-lovely if you have to brake suddenly or Fido happens to cop an eye full of debris.

The sobering reality is that over 5,000 dogs in Australia are injured in motor vehicle accidents every year. But there are heaps of ways you can ensure both you AND your furry friend are kept safe while you’re both enjoying a bit of road trip stimulation.

The rules

Firstly, the factual stuff. An unrestrained dog can easily become a lethal weapon in an accident. In fact, if you’re hit by an unrestrained, 20 kg canine while you’re travelling at 60 km an hour, it has the same impact as if he or she has fallen onto you from a third-floor balcony. Ouch. That’s why there are rules.

It is illegal in all Australian states to have a pet sitting in your lap while you’re driving. Dogs in particular can interfere with your ability to steer properly, indicate, and an energetic animal can even obscure your view.

Animals by law need to be seated or housed in an appropriate area of your vehicle (with no doggie parts outside of the car), and dogs in the back of utes need to be restrained by a cage or a tether. This is so they don’t interfere with your ability to concentrate and there is no risk of them becoming airborne or jumping out of the car. Rules, fines and demerit points differ between states, so check your state’s transport department website for more details.

It’s also worth noting that it’s not all about you either. If your pet is not secured properly, they themselves could be injured by an air bag or simply by being thrown around in the vehicle. If this is due to them being improperly restrained, you could be in trouble, because depending on your state or territory, you can be fined or even face jail time.

Before you hit the road

If your fluffy one’s itching for a bit of road trip activity, you need to do a bit of prep work. Make sure your dog’s got an ID tag, lead and collar, pack a doggie blanket for bedding, have a few poo disposal baggies at hand for rest stops, and consider buying a non-spill water bowl for along-the-way refreshment.

You should also take along some tasty treats, which will help quell the hunger mid-trip (dogs are prone to motion sickness so a big meal before you set off is a guaranteed projectile-inducer), and they can also act as sweeteners if the dog’s not all that keen to get into the back seat in the first place.

Restraint options

There are heaps of options out there, but one of the more popular ones is using a pet transport crate. It should be large enough to permit puppy to stand up completely and turn around, but not roomy enough to allow your dog to slide around in response to your car’s movements. And it should be structurally sound, well ventilated and securely fastened in place.

Dog harnesses are also a good option – they provide your pooch with some freedom but will adequately restrain them if you’re in an accident. These work via a swivel-type attachment system that is anchored to an existing seat belt (or seat belt attachment) and then they are attached to your dog’s harness (not your dog’s collar). If this is your go-to, make sure it fits your dog correctly, is FITTED correctly and has been crash tested at a realistic speed of at least 35 kilometres an hour.

Cargo barriers can be effective for securing your dog in an open area, such as in a van or in the back of an SUV. Many of these are manufactured to suit the make and model of a variety of vehicles, are adjustable and can be easily installed and removed. The barrier will need to be able to be securely attached to the interior framework of your car and should be rated to restrain the actual weight of your pet in the event of an accident. Front seat barriers are worth considering for smaller vehicles (these restrict your dog from front-seat access) and can be used in combination with a harness and a seat belt attachment for extra safety.

And if your pooch is of the smaller variety and a little on the nervy side, you could also consider a pet booster seat or a safety accredited pet basket, which will ensure they get the best possible views while being safely restrained. Many of these feature adjustable straps for back seat fastening, have wonderfully comfy interiors and keep four legged friends secure via a non-intrusive safety leash.

Give them a break!

Pets are often affectionately compared to small children and in the case of car travel, their needs are pretty much the same. They need frequent stops (for both toilet time and to burn off a bit of pent-up energy), they need to be kept occupied, and dogs also need to be kept cool and hydrated.

Make sure you never leave your pet in the car by itself, particularly when it’s hot. Dogs can die within minutes from being left inside an over-heated vehicle (even if the windows are down and your car’s in the shade) simply because they are highly susceptible to heatstroke. Apart from being cruel, if you’re caught, you could also be up for an animal cruelty fine or some not-fun-at-all time in jail. Happy pet-friendly cruising!

You and your fur baby ain’t going anywhere if you break down. But we’ve gotU. Just pay as you go … as you need it!

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