Whether you are headed to the grocery store or headed to another country there are a number of ways that your pet can join you on your journeys that are both safe and comfortable.
Traveling with your pet - whether short or long distances - requires forethought and planning. The best thing you can do prior to traveling with an animal is to see your veterinarian. She can decide whether your pet will be able to withstand the strain of a car trip and what kinds of precautions you will need to take before heading off into the great blue yonder. An unhappy pet makes for a miserable trip, and an unsafe pet may bring heartbreak.
We’ve all seen the dummies on television. They crash into walls, lose limbs, and generally convince you that wearing seat belts saves lives. Did you ever think this might apply to your pet as well?
Riding unrestrained in a car or truck is as dangerous for your pet as it is for you. Think about it: Your four-legged friend has far less ability to keep himself upright in a careening vehicle than you do. In an accident, Rover is likely to go straight through the windshield, and the chances of him surviving impact upon landing are slim.
"But my dog loves to hang his head out the window!" you say. "Am I supposed to deprive him?" Yes, you should. As you’re traveling on the highway and Rover happily is taking in the breeze he is at the mercy of flying rocks, debris, and branches that can easily put out an eye or otherwise cause permanent damage to his head. Save headache and heartache for both of you and buy a restraint for your pet.
Don’t be a dummy
They make several types of seat belts for animals, and most are available at your local pet supply store. Wholesale pet supply companies, such as R. C. Steele (call 800/872-3773), might also have what you’re looking for, and you don’t have to be a veterinarian or a pet shop owner to use them. Seat belts for your dog are available in several sizes, and they work with a harness piece that goes over the chest and attaches to the car’s seat belt. The dog can sit and see the scenery or lie down for the duration of the trip.
We have all seen dogs riding happily in the back of a pickup truck - but how happy would they be if a sharp turn sent them flying? Although riding unrestrained in the bed of a truck is not illegal everywhere, it is certainly illegal in some cities.And it is severely frowned upon by humane societies, law enforcement, and most of the general public. Do yourself - and your dog - a favor and buy a "seat belt" for the bed of the truck. Somewhat more difficult (though not impossible) to find, this contraption is more like a leash that is adjustable and can be attached in the bed of the truck. You can shorten or lengthen the leash as you wish, making it long enough to give the dog some standing room but short enough to prevent him from flipping over the side of the vehicle and hanging himself. Seat belts all vary in price depending on size and type, but will probably run between $20 and $40.
Car seats for smaller pets (up to ten pounds) are also available, though not many people have heard of them. It looks somewhat like a square cloth bucket attached to the back of your vehicle’s seat and can be raised or lowered to allow your pet to see out the window. The seat contains a safety harness, and it retails for about $50.
No carrot cake for Rover
Another option for restraining a cat or dog inside a vehicle is a carrier, which has the added bonus of portability. These sturdy, well-ventilated carriers can be a comfort zone for your pet if you get him used to it by taking him on frequent trips at first. And in a carrier, he can’t (out of sheer boredom) eat the carrot cake you’ve left on the dash or otherwise destroy the interior of the Chevy. When choosing a carrier, keep in mind that it should:
- Allow your pet to sit, stand, or lie down comfortably
- Have no interior protrusions that may injure the animal
- Be well-ventilated, with exterior rims to keep other objects from blocking air flow
- Be equipped with handles or grips for secure transport
You may want to include a few familiar toys or a favorite blanket to lie on. Carriers, in general, cost between $50 and $150 (depending on size), and can be found at just about any pet store. Smaller carriers can usually be secured to the seat using the car’s seat belt.
Leaving an animal inside the car requires attention to temperature: If it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your four-legged pal. And the temperature in the interior of a car can be lethal - even in winter - with temperatures rising extremely quickly to 150 to 200 degrees. And if you’re on a long car trip, you must stop every two hours for Rover’s roaming pleasure. He is just as cramped in the car as you are, and a quick walk will do both of you some good. When you do stop, be sure to give your pet water - he gets just as thirsty as you do.
Once you’re there
The car ride ends, but the trip may have just begun. Once you arrive at your destination, you’ll need to find lodging. Pet-friendly hotels and motels do exist, though you may have to do a little searching to find them. (See "Finding Pet-Friendly Lodging," below.) Some questions to consider before you make reservations:
- Will other pets be staying there at the same time? If so, what kinds of animals?
- Will there be fees or deposits for my pet? Are the fees per pet or per room? Daily or one time only? Is the deposit refundable?
- Will I be limited to a certain type of room?
- Are there restrictions on where I can walk my pet?
- Do they offer special services for pets? (Some five-star hotels may.)
Expecting the unexpected
Despite all of your forethought and planning, from time to time medical emergencies with your pet will occur. Before you leave, ask your veterinarian for a referral to a veterinary hospital in your destination location. You can also visit Healthypet’s Hospital Locator to search for AAHA member facilities by zip code.
With a little preparation and forethought, traveling with your pet in the car (but not in the trunk) can be a safe and enjoyable experience for both of you.
Finding Pet-Friendly Lodging
The American Automobile Association (AAA) and American Express Travel Service can help you make arrangements at motels and hotels accepting pets. Their numbers can be found in your local directory. Or telephone 800/496-2665 for Vacationing With Your Pet!, a national listing of pet-friendly hotels and motels.