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ISU Student Experience

Traveling With Your Pets in Your Automobile

Some pets love to travel; some are perfectly content not seeing the backseat of your car ever again. There are times when travel may be necessary: visits to your veterinarian, training sessions, or trips back home for the holidays. Some travel can be a treat for your pet; a trip to the dog park or pet store can give your pet some much needed exercise or socialization. Whether your pet likes it or not, traveling is a part of your life and theirs. It is important to keep your pets, passengers, and yourself safe while traveling.

Pets, whether they enjoy traveling or not, should always be restrained. This keeps your pet from distracting the driver.  According to a AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Report conducted in 2006, taking your eyes off the road for just 2 seconds will double the risk of being involved in a crash. In a different survey conducted by AAA and Kurgo Pet Products, 65% of dog owners admit to engaging in at least one potentially distracting activity while driving with their dog. This can include petting the dog, giving the dog treats, using your arm to keep them in the backseat, as well as letting them sit on your lap.

Keeping your dog, cat, or any other pet restrained will reduce the amount of distraction to the driver. Angie Gearhart, DVM, a doctor in Iowa Veterinary Specialties’ Emergency Department recommends, “All pets should be restrained by a harness, kennel, or crate while riding in the car." "Like children,” she added, “the safest place for your pet to be is in the backseat.” The doctors and staff at Iowa Veterinary Specialties all agree that the owner should do their research when choosing the best restraint option for their pets.

There is a lack of industry standards or oversight when it comes to pet safety products. One organization, The Center for Pet Safety, is a non-profit organization dedicated to research and advocacy for companion animal and consumer safety. The CPS has conducted research on harnesses used to restrain a dog in an automobile. Although most harnesses can keep an animal restrained in the backseat, only one harness earned their seal of approval for crash safety. Click here to see the crash test videos and the results on which harnesses were tested in 2013.

The Center for Pet Safety has some recommendations regarding pets that travel in carriers as well. Small carriers should be placed on the floor of the backseat behind the driver or passenger, rather than sitting on, or buckled in, the backseat. There haven’t been significant studies performed on crash safety for pets in carriers. By placing the carrier on the floor, there is less chance for dramatic movement during a crash. The CPS has performed a preliminary crash test study using a wire crate in the back of the car. The video of that study can be viewed here, and the CPS does not recommend the use of a wire crate in the event of a crash.

Of course, for those with trucks, it’s always safer for pets to remain in the cab and not in the bed of the truck. The Center for Pet Safety warns; even if your pet enjoys sticking his head out the window road debris can pose a serious danger.

If you have any questions regarding traveling with your pet, contact your veterinarian or give Iowa Veterinary Specialties a call at 515-280-3100.

See one Georgia family’s story after seeing a report on the safety of pet harnesses, and how finding the right harness may have saved their pet’s life.

Photo Credit:

creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by Lulu Hoeller: http://flickr.com/photos/toaireisdivine/3224037144

Published on October 4, 2016


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