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Traveling With Pets: Driving Safely With Pets

Updated on May 31, 2016
DzyMsLizzy profile image

Liz has always loved animals, and seeing them ill, hurt or killed breaks her heart. She advocates for "adopt, don't shop" and TNR programs.

Tigger was a large cat, who needed a large carrier
Tigger was a large cat, who needed a large carrier | Source

Fido and Fluffy Can Add Distractions

Beyond the assorted tips I gave in my hub, Driving Safely, there are other considerations inside the car. The foremost problem after misbehaving children is poor choices made by pet owners.

I have seen everything from dogs hanging out the windows to riding in the driver's lap! Neither of these practices is a good idea. In fact, they are very bad ideas for more reasons than one.

It is not only dogs--cats can also cause major distractions to the driving process.

Keep Your Pets Confined

For the safety of your pet, as well as everyone else in the car, be sure to restrain your animals in appropriate ways.

There are harnesses available for medium-to-large dogs that allow the animal to be buckled into the car's seat belts: in the back seat, always, please.

Small dogs should be placed inside a portable kennel/carrier. The carrier should be tied down with the seatbelt, as well. You never know when some other driver will cause you to slam on your brakes, or make a sudden swerve to avoid an accident.

Such sudden motions of the vehicle can send the carrier careening across the seat, possibly turning over in the process, and risking injury to your pet. Now, you have to deal not only with your own possible laundry problem, but an injured or freaked-out animal as well.

Cats Must Not Be Loose

With cats, a carrier is mandatory. Cats are much more easily spooked than most dogs, and it won't take much to send them into a freak-out-frenzy. If they are loose in the car, they can end up on top of your head, or a passenger, digging in for dear life with their sharp claws.

I once saw a fellow driving down the road with a cat riding draped around his shoulders. Cute, but not smart. If there were to be a problem, that cuteness could turn bloody in a heartbeat.

Put kitty in a cat carrier, and strap it into the seatbelt to secure it. Yes, kitty may complain, but learn to tune it out. Cats can be notorious complainers, but they are just fine. They are merely vocalizing their opinion, which can safely be ignored. Turning around to see if the cat is ok is inviting an accident because your eyes are off the road.

Dogs In Trucks

Some folks like to let their dogs ride in the backs of their pickup trucks. This is risky for the animal.

Many states now have laws that the dog must not be loose in the bed of the truck, and this makes perfect sense. Not only can a loose dog be tossed about or thrown from the bed in the event of an accident or sudden maneuver, they can also leap out of their own accord to pursue whatever it is that crosses his doggy mind.

This is dangerous in the extreme, especially if you are in traffic. Your dog can well be hit and killed or severely injured by oncoming cars, and that can also cause accidents for other drivers. You, yourself can also cause an accident because of this, if you happen to see the dog jump out, and stop or turn suddenly with nothing more on your mind than saving your dog.

Not only should a dog riding in the bed of a pickup truck be tethered, but double-tethered, so that he is unable to move to the sides of the truck. Best position for doggy is in the center, tied off to either side. Why is this? Because there have been numerous cases of dogs being tied into the truck bed, but loosely, so that if they saw something, or simply did not wish to be left behind when the owner stopped for an errand, jumped out, and were hung by their tether and strangled to death.

Such tragedies are easily avoided by use of common sense. Sadly, common sense has become rather uncommon, hence laws have been passed to force owners to double-tether dogs in the backs of trucks.

If you are tying your dog into the pickup bed, be sure he is wearing a harness. Do not tie off to his collar, because a determined or panicked dog can slip out of a collar.

Even if your truck has a full camper shell, the dog should still be restrained inside to prevent injury in the event of an accident or sudden maneuver.

Franklin Roosevelt, a former President of the United States setting a bad example; and worse, in a convertible!
Franklin Roosevelt, a former President of the United States setting a bad example; and worse, in a convertible! | Source
Strapped into a harness and secured with the vehicle's seatbelt, this pooch is riding in safety and comfort
Strapped into a harness and secured with the vehicle's seatbelt, this pooch is riding in safety and comfort | Source

Dogs Hanging Out Windows

"But, my dog loves to hang out the window with her face in the breeze while we're riding!" Yes, many people believe that, and allow that. It is a bad idea on many levels. Dogs may be smart and very trainable, but they are not smart enough to recognize potential dangers while riding in a car.

First, there is the risk that the dog can fall or jump out that window, especially if it is a dog that likes to hang her paws over the top of the door and really be riding the wind.

Second, there is that distraction factor, because your attention is going to be somewhat focused on the dog, especially if said dog is shifting between window-hanging and hanging over the back of the driver's seat.

Lastly, but equally important, there is real risk of injury to your dog. We've all seen what happens to windshields when a stray small rock bounces off a gravel truck, or is thrown up by the wheels of the car in front. The damage ranges from a small chip to a spider-fracture of the glass.

That same piece of rock can just as easily hit your dog in the face, and I assure you, soft tissue is a lot less resistant to damage than the tempered safety glass used for car windows. Any such debris (including litter) can hit them in the face, lodge in their ears, or what have you. Dogs have been blinded and suffered other assorted injuries from road debris tossed up from the street.

If you love your dog, harness them in, and keep the windows closed, or open only a small space of an inch or so, too small for them to stick their heads through.

Carsickness a Problem?

If your dog has a tendency to get carsick, and that is why you want the window open for them, by all means, open a window near the dog's seating position, so he can have fresh air. Just be sure his seatbelt is secure, and he cannot hang out the window.

If at all possible, withhold food for at least a couple of hours before hitting the road. It is possible also to give your dog Dramamine™ prior to a road trip. Discuss the dosage with your veterinarian, as it will vary with the size of the dog. Consult your vet for anti-nausea medications for cats.

For very short trips, such as to the vet, it is not wise to medicate, as it could mask what the vet may be checking for. In such cases, it is better to simply prepare by putting old towels in the cat's carrier, and have a spare set along for the return trip.

For dogs, there are protective moisture-resistant pads that can be used to cover the car's seat. The old "ounce of prevention" and "be prepared" mottos apply here.

Confinement Is Not Cruel

Some people seem to think that it is cruel to harness or cage a pet in the car. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It is cruel to let them have free range inside the car, because it compromises their safety and yours. Confining your pets while you drive is actually an expression of your love for them.

If you love your dog or cat, harness them or cage them while driving.

© 2011 Liz Elias


Submit a Comment

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 3 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, Eileen Hughes,

    Thanks so much for your comment. I'm glad you liked this article, and I appreciate your addition of veterinary advice that even the wind can cause damage to your dog's eyes.

  • Eileen Hughes profile image

    Eileen Hughes 3 years ago from Northam Western Australia

    Well written hub full of good reasons not to have your dog or cat loose in a vehicle.

    Another reason not to let your dog hang out of the window is (so a vet told me) it contributes to the dog losing its sight. The wind does effect their eyesight

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, jose7polanco,

    Yes, here in CA, you are allowed to travel with your pets. Keeping them under control is the point of the article. That is to say, you are allowed to travel with any LEGAL pets. In CA some kinds of pets are not legal to own, so before you take any exotic animals into your home or on the road, be sure to check which kinds of pets you are allowed to have.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  • jose7polanco profile image

    Jose Misael Polanco 4 years ago from Los Angeles

    Here in California you are allowed to travel with any pet or animal you want as long as you can keep control of the animal.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, Philip DeBerard ,

    Thanks for stopping by and adding your comment. You are so right that cell phones are not the only distraction while driving. Keeping your pets confined, and planning ahead are definitely important.

  • profile image

    Philip DeBerard 5 years ago

    Good tips. It's easy to underestimate how difficult it can be traveling with a pet. It always pays to be prepared. Cell phones aren't the only form of distracted driving.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi, RealHousewife--

    Thanks very much for the praise! You raise an excellent point about keeping birds in a carrier as well. I would hate to see a cat/bird/dog fight erupt in the back seat while driving down the freeway! ;-)

    Thanks for adding to the discussion.

  • RealHousewife profile image

    Kelly Umphenour 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    Hi DzyMsLizzy! Great safety tips....I have lots of pets so I was attracted to this hub naturally:). And so excited to see it has been hub of the day! So awesome!

    I have several birds....I have carriers for them....some people think their parrots will never fly from their shoulder but they do if they get scared and they are not used to highway noise, usually.

    I need to get car seats for my dogs:)

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, natures47friend,

    Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing. Well, we've all done things before there were laws and recommendations--heck--we grew up as kids standing up in the back seat or bouncing around before cars even had seat belts, much less strapping in pets.

    So, now you know. Most vets around here require cats to be in carriers for visits, so as not to cause cat/dog incidents in the lobby. ;-)

    Thanks much for the votes!

  • natures47friend profile image

    natures47friend 5 years ago from Sunny Art Deco Napier, New Zealand.

    Lovely hub. I was so naughty with my cat when i travelled. She had kitty litter in the back and often sat on my knee. At the vet she draped around my

    Up and awesome.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, Rachel Richmond--

    Thank you so much for the compliment, and adding a comment to share. It's so true, that pets, just like kids, will try to push the envelope! Good for you on having a harness for her.

  • Rachel Richmond profile image

    Rachel Richmond 5 years ago from California

    Excellent hub! I have to agree with you about pets being a distraction if they aren't secured. Our dog loves to "push her luck" and see if she can climb to the front every time we put her in the car ..haha.. but she never makes it. She is harnessed in. It's a comfort to know she is safer in the back.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi again, randomcreative! Thank you so very much!

  • randomcreative profile image

    Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    I just came back to say congrats on getting Hub of the Day!

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, baygirl33--I'm glad you found the article so useful. I do hope your daughter finds a harness for her pooch to avoid potential injury or heartbreak. Thanks very much for the vote!

  • baygirl33 profile image

    victoria 5 years ago from Hamilton On.

    I'm hoping to send your hub to my daughter who always rides with her dog unleashed.It is an accident waiting to happen.Thank you for sharing.voted you up.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

    @ cabmgmnt--Hello, and thank you for adding that information. You can, indeed, be ticketed for having your dog untethered.

    @ cclitgirl--Thanks much, and good for you! I hope your doggie adjusts well to the new seat belt harness. Introduce it gradually with short trips.

    @ SanneL--Thanks so much for adding your comment, and brava for you on restraining your pooch! You are correct--our pets are no less members of our families, and should be treated with the same care and concern for their safety. Thanks much as well for the compliment and the kudos!

    @ Mary615--Hello, and thank you very much for the congrats, and for adding that important tidbit. It is indeed very much easier if crate or harness training is begun when the animal is young. And yes, small dogs do as well in a travel crate as cats. I'm pleased that you liked the article and found it useful.

    @ VictoriaLynn--Good for you--and even a special booster seat for doggie! How cool is that?! I know what you mean about it being crazy-making to see pets loose in a vehicle. Thanks very much for the praise, the kudos and the follow!

    @ Pollyannalana--Thanks very much for adding your comment. You make an excellent point. I'm pleased you found the hub useful.

    @ Sunshine625--LOL--I had a dog that didn't much like to ride in the car. Trouble was, we had a good-sized yard, so the only car rides he got were to the vet. He'd stary crying as soon as he saw the parking lot. I'm glad you enjoyed the Hub. Thanks very much for the praise, kudos and the vote!

  • Sunshine625 profile image

    Linda Bilyeu 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

    DzyMzLizzy...Congrats on Hub Of The Day!! It's fantastic!! My dog doesn't like the car so she doesn't travel well at all. Voted UP!!

  • Pollyannalana profile image

    Pollyannalana 5 years ago from US

    Glad you use common sense. Many spoil their pets just like their kids and don't think of safety first. Great advice. Very useful.

  • Victoria Lynn profile image

    Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

    Voted up, useful, interesting, awesome! It drives me crazy to see pets loose in a vehicle. I put my dog in a harness and then hook him up in his booster seat so that he can see where we're going. I put it in the back seat just where a child's seat would go. I am bad to move it to the front when we just make short trips around town. On long trips, I do move him to the back, but I know I should always do so. Great hub! I hope many people read it and listen! Congrats on hub of the day. I thought I was following you already, but I know I am now!

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