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Pets & Car Travel: A 6 Point Checklist


Whether it’s a holiday trip to visit relatives, take a family vacation, or just out and about doing errands, taking pets along requires a little advance planning and adherence to a few safety guidelines to ensure a safe journey for all.

These tips can provide not only peace of mind, but also make the trip with pets a more enjoyable experience.

Secure pets properly. Dogs, cats, parrots, rabbits, snakes or what have you, if the family pets are accompanying you in the car, be sure to secure them in an appropriate carrier. Remember that unrestrained pets can serve as flying projectiles in the event of a crash or sudden breaking, potentially injuring the animal and passengers in the vehicle.

MORE: See Buy the Right Dog Seat Belt and Dog Car Harness, Cats & Car Travel: 4 Things to Remember and Cars and Pet Safety: How Do I Transport Exotic Pets?  

Give pets a light meal prior to departure. Hungry pets are likely to be disruptive, howling, barking, hissing or meowing (or otherwise making their needs known) for food. Prevent this unnecessary distraction by feeding pets that will be making the road trip with you three to four hours before you depart. Pet safety experts recommend not feeding pets during a drive, even if it is a long one. You can, however, give animals water at breaks in the trip, especially if the outside temperature climbs. Make sure to bring your own water, in plastic jugs or bottles, as giving pets water from unfamiliar sources could result in an upset stomach, making for a distressing situation for everyone.

Do not permit pets to ride with their heads out the window. Dirt, debris, flying objects and low-hanging branches are only a few of the dangers when pets ride with their heads out the window. Simple solution: don’t allow this habit. Make sure the pet is secured in the back seat in his crate or with a harness attached to a seat buckle.

Bring your pet’s travel kit. Items your pet feels secure with, toys, blankets, dog chew bones, waste scoop, plastic bags, medication, food and water should be part of the kit. The last thing you want is to get underway and discover you’ve forgotten Fido or Fluffy’s favorite item.

Make sure pet has identification. While this applies mostly for dogs, owners of cats may also wish to have ID tags or microchips on their pets. If the trip will be lengthy, include a temporary ID tag that has your cell phone, destination phone or other means of contacting you if the animal runs off or accidentally gets left at a rest stop or other location.

Never leave your pet alone in the car. No matter what the weather, leaving a pet in a locked car is never a wise idea. On a hot day, the car’s interior can quickly become a furnace, setting up the potentially tragic result of heatstroke. In frigid weather, your pet can literally freeze to death, say pet safety experts, as the car acts like a refrigerator.

Bottom line: Traveling with your pet in the car needn’t be a stressful situation – for you or your pet. Along with packing your suitcase and poring over your itinerary, make sure to take the time to ensure your pet will travel safely with the family.

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