They give you that sad look every time you leave the house—cocked head, big unblinking eyes, perked ears. “Can’t I come with you?”
With more than 163 million dogs and cats in U.S. homes, lots of heartstrings are yanked each time we open the door. And more and more, we’re giving in.
“There’s been a change in attitude toward animals,” says Kelly Connolly, issue specialist with the Humane Society of the United States. “We see pets more as part of the family, less as add-ons. So, just as we take our family with us different places, we’re taking our pets, too.”
And how we keep ourselves and our pets safe in the car is becoming increasingly important.
“Buckling up your pet is not just for the pet’s safety, it’s for the passengers, the drivers and the first responders,” says Christina Selter, pet safety expert and founder of Bark Buckle Up . Like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Click it or Ticket campaign, Bark Buckle Up educates on the importance of seatbelt safety—but for pets.
“If you’re in an accident and you’re unconscious when a responder opens the door,” says Selter, “it’s very easy for the dog to run out and be hit if not buckled up—or, bite the responder.”
Also, an unbuckled pet can become a projectile in the case of a sudden stop or a collision, hurting drivers, passengers or themselves.
But how do you buckle a dog? Or worse, a cat? Regular seatbelts, made for humans, don’t usually fit our furry friends.
A wide variety of restraints are available to keep animal passengers protected. For cats and smaller dogs, pet carriers or small crates are the best. The carriers can give animals a sense of security, and they can be further secured with a seatbelt or other restraint.
Beyond carriers, there are harnesses, seat belt attachments, specially-designed pet car seats, as well as vehicle barriers. Check out barkbuckleup.com to see which products Selter recommends.
The Humane Society’s Kelly Connolly says that a moment of judgment needs to be the first step to any outing.
“Animals can’t decide things for themselves,” she says. “Think about what is best for the pet before you pack them. Ask, what is he getting out of it? Can I do this safely, and will he be safe and comfortable in the car?”
Things to consider:
· Is your pet permitted where you are going? If not, better not take them. Most pets are more comfortable at home alone rather than in the car alone.
· What’s the weather like? If it’s hot and sunny, your cat or dog might not do well with the sunshine heating up the car interior (even with air conditioning). The temperature controlled interior of your house might be better. *Never leave a pet unattended in a car during warm sunny weather. It could be a fatal mistake!
· Does your pet get car sick? If so, talk to your veterinarian about the options to help settle your pet’s tummy on the road. It will be more comfortable for you both in the long run.
· While some animals travel well, others become anxious in new surroundings. Start by taking your pet on short trips to pet-friendly place to see how he/she reacts in new environments. When you know your pet’s tolerance ask yourself how long you will be gone and if your pet can tolerate it.