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Traveling With Pets Part 2: Pet Safety in the Vehicle

Date posted: 07/18/2013

by Alicia Sparks on
in Recent News

Dog in Harness 294x300 Traveling With Pets Part 2: Pet Safety in the Vehicle

Safely restraining pets can help reduce distractions that can put driver and fuzzy friend in harm’s way.

Now that you know the initial steps to prepare your trip, it’s time for a little Pet Safety: 101.

Probably the two biggest issues with pet safety in vehicles are:

  • Keeping your pet from getting injured or distracting you during the drive.
  • Keeping your pet safe when you leave the vehicle.

State Laws on Pet Restraint

Your pet should be restrained at all times. This is for Fido’s safety as well as your own. No matter how small or well behaved your pet might be, when unrestrained, he poses a risk for distraction and injury.

States have their own requirements for pet restraint. For example, New Jersey officers can stop you for improperly transporting an animal and can even charge you with disorderly person’s offense under the state’s animal cruelty laws. Hawaii expressly forbids driving with a pet on your lap and Arizona, Maine, and Connecticut can use unrestrained pets as grounds for distracting driving charges, too.

To meet those requirements, you might consider:

  • Cages. Some small pets—like hamsters, snakes, and birds—live in cages, and transporting them in their homes will help keep them safe and calm.
  • Pet carriers. These are great for cats, small dogs, ferrets, and other medium-sized pets. Secure your carrier so it doesn’t shift and shake during the ride.
  • Crates. Crates work well for large pets. Generally, roomy vehicles like SUVs and vans accommodate crates best.
  • Seat belt harnesses. If you don’t have room for a crate or your pet doesn’t deal well with confinement, consider seat belt harnesses. Various designs exist, but overall the harnesses fasten to a seat belt and prevent your pet from tumbling around.

Always check before heading out. Consult your state’s laws on pet restraints in vehicles or contact your state’s motor vehicle agency.

NOTE: Some states have laws against transporting pets in truck beds, and others set conditions for doing so. When in doubt, check.

Pets Unattended in Vehicles

Leaving a pet unattended in a vehicle is a touchy subject. Many animal advocacy groups and individuals are passionate about never leaving your pet unattended, but sometimes it seems like you have no choice.

Some states consider these situations in their safety laws; to date, many states—like Vermont, West Virginia, South Dakota, California, and Illinois—include conditions in their laws that forbid leaving a pet alone long enough or in circumstances that are likely to injure or cause the death of the animal.

Some states forbid leaving a pet unattended for any amount of time, and others have no laws on the issue.

So, again, look your state’s vehicle laws or contact your motor vehicle agency.

Additional Pet Safety Tips

  • As cute as it is, Skip shouldn’t hang his head—and tongue—out the window for safety’s sake.
  • Keep the temperature comfortable—not too hot, not too cold. Take note of your pet’s proximity to the closest vent and start from there.
  • Consider your radio volume. Our pets have much stronger hearing than us, and although they’re able to internally tune some sounds down, being in an enclosed space with loud music isn’t much fun.
  • Talk to your pet. Your voice can help keep him calm, which in turn can help him from freaking out and hurting himself or becoming a distraction.

Stay tuned for ways to keep your pet calm and relaxed during the trip.

In the meantime, do you have any tips for keeping pets safe in vehicles? We’d love to hear from you! Just share your experience in the comments below.

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About Alicia Sparks

Alicia Sparks is a freelance writer and editor with a passion for animal rights, mental health advocacy, and civil liberties. She loves yoga, tolerates running, attempts cooking, treats DMB concerts as national holidays, and dreams of the day when Timothy Olyphant and Kevin Spacey battle for her love. Check her out at More articles by Alicia Sparks

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