Keeping your pet safe in the car

It’s the start of a classic Aussie family holiday: shove the bags into the boot, strap in the kids, and finally squeeze the dog into whatever space is left over. Our pets may often be beloved members of the family, but they’re often neglected when it comes to travel arrangements; too often pets are put in the car as an afterthought – as if they’re nothing but extra baggage, or carried with their owners without proper safety arrangements.

So what are some good ways to give your pet a safer, more relaxing time in your car?

Consider the law

Laws around restraining animals from state to state, but generally the laws stipulate that you must not be distracted by the animal, or you’ll face a fine. The NSW Roads and Maritime Services states that:

  • A driver must not drive with an animal in the driver’s lap.
  • A motor cycle rider must not ride with an animal between the handlebars and the rider.
  • Animals should be seated or housed in an appropriate area of the vehicle.
  • Dogs on utes should be restrained either via a tether or cage, so that the dog cannot fall off or be injured when the vehicle moves.
  • A driver, motorcycle rider, bicycle rider or passenger must not lead an animal, while the vehicle is moving.

Not to mention, the RSPCA also has power here. They can issue hefty fines and sentences for neglecting to restrain animals appropriately.

Use a travel crate

dog in carSo what are some good ways to give your pet a safer, more relaxing time in your car?A crate or travel carrier is the safest way to transport your pet, period. Seeing as no animal is going to voluntarily wear a seatbelt, particularly the likes of cats or dogs, the next best thing is to let them ride in a reinforced carrier which will keep them contained in the event of an accident or sudden braking. When buying a pet carrier, look for features such as good ventilation, adequate size and a comfortable interior (including insulation if you live in a cold area). Some high-end models are even crash-test certified for extra safety and peace of mind.

If your pet isn’t too keen on being shut in a container for several hours, you can also buy specialised car seats and even modified seatbelts for larger animals. Special car barriers for pets also exist if you prefer to let your pet ride in the boot of the car. Also bear in mind that even if you have pet insurance, your policy will likely not cover your furry friend in an accident if they were not properly secured while travelling.

Let them out regularly

Just like you need a break from driving every few hours, your pets are no doubt itching to stretch their legs, wings or whatever limbs they have. Dogs in particular will become restless and need a walk and a toilet stop every few hours. And of course, it’s crucial that you never leave your pet alone in the car; even with the windows open, dogs can be susceptible to heat stroke on a hot day, and there’s also the possibility of them hurting themselves in an environment they’re not used to.

Keep them well supplied

Just like you would with the rest of the family, it’s important to keep your pet well stocked with food and water throughout the journey – you can buy collapsible travel bowls for this exact purpose. A good way to prepare is to feed your pet a couple of hours before setting off, so that they eat less food during the journey and there’s less risk of mess or an upset stomach.

Keep them company!

Remember, travelling in a car can often be overwhelming and scary for small animals, even ones who’ve done it before. Keep your pet company and show them lots of love and affection, and it’ll make their journey much more pleasant.

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