Traveling with Your Pet [part 1]: Containing the Danger
Taking your cat or dog in the car with you, whether on an extended road trip or on just a short jaunt to the pet store, can pose a danger to you and others on the road if done incorrectly. Allowing a pet to run loose in your car can distract both the driver and passengers, and can even cause an accident if the animal interferes with your ability to steer or operate your automobile’s gas and brake pedals — it’s important to avoid distracted driving.
However, there are several products on the market today that make traveling with your pet safe for you, them and the rest of us.
Portable plastic carriers used for airline travel fit in the back of most pickup trucks and SUVs and can help keep your pets safe and secure. The dogs enjoy their own space and, if you have a pickup, it affords some protection from the elements. Insulated and un-insulated covers are available that can zip up to block wind and rain, or can be opened to let air flow through. They’re relatively inexpensive and portable. For those with little dogs and cats, purse-like carriers that are fashionable enough to carry to the local boutique exist too, and offer a safe way to keep your pup or kitten from getting underfoot (literally) while you drive.
More sturdy than plastic carriers and made for dogs transported via pickup truck, metal dog boxes can provide excellent protection from both nature’s elements and potential injuries in the event of an accident. There are several types, from single and two-dog boxes that slide into the bed, to bed-toppers to those that hold six or more dogs and include storage space. These tend to be heavier and less portable than more inexpensive carriers. You can even get specially designed trailers that hold dogs, wardrobe, gear, water and more.
It’s the law in many states that people must buckle up, and that children must too while sitting in the back seat, so it’s probably a good idea to apply this logic to your pet, also. A myriad of seat belt options exist that give your pet enough room to sit or lay down comfortably, but which keep them safely restrained – a two-way win: they won’t distract you with their antics and in the event of an accident, they won’t fly through the car.
Ideal for SUVs or even passenger cars, barriers that prevent your cat or dog from leaving the cargo area (of an SUV) or the back seat (of a passenger car), give them more freedom of movement but keep them contained. They’re inexpensive and easy to install, too!
While barriers keep pets from jumping around in an automobile, and they help stop forward momentum in the event of an accident, they still have a large area in which your pet can move around. However, in the event of an accident, that is the same amount of area the dog will easily bounce around upon impact or sudden braking – not to mention their forward momentum, especially the weight of a medium-sized dog, will likely break the barrier at some point. Barriers are not intended as safety restraints on par with seatbelts, but rather, simply contain your pet in the cargo area.
Personally, I prefer the protection that carriers, boxes and seat belts provide in restraining cats and dogs during automobile travel. Consider your needs and choose the product that best suits your situation and your pet. There’s no reason your dog or cat can’t accompany you on the next road trip, just make sure it’s done in a manner that keeps everyone on the road safe.