How to protect pets while driving

Posted in Auto

A happy brown and white dog sits in the backseat of a vehicle wearing a travel harness.

We know that your pets are your “fur-babies,” and you want to keep them safe. So before you go cruising with your canine or kitty, let’s review some of the best ways to keep your dog and cat safe while driving around town or cross-country.

Check out these 10 tips for keeping your pets safe in the car:

1. Prep your pet.

If you’re in for a long-distance road trip, get your pet prepared by taking them on a series of short drives first, gradually lengthening time spent in the car.1 If you’re traveling across state lines, bring along your pet's rabies vaccination record. While this generally isn't a problem, some states require this proof at certain interstate crossings. Provide your pet with a light meal three to four hours prior to departure and avoid feeding your pet in a moving vehicle.

2. Take a travel kit.

Bring food, a bowl, leash, a waste scoop, plastic bags, grooming supplies, medication and first aid and any travel documents. Pack a favorite toy or pillow to give your pet a sense of familiarity. And be sure to pack plenty of bottled water. Giving your pet drinking water from an area they aren’t used to could result in stomach discomfort.

3. Hold on tight.

Consider a harness to make sure your pet is safe and secure. Since an unrestrained pet can become a projectile, causing injury to itself or others in the vehicle, look for a harness that will keep them restrained in an accident. According to the 2013 Safety Harness Crashworthiness Study by the Center for Pet Safety (CPS), the only product to pass the tests and earn the CPS designation of Top Performer was the Sleepypod® Clickit Utility Harness.

4. Take comfort into account.

Because most cats aren't comfortable traveling in cars, for their safety as well as yours, it’s best to keep them in a carrier.2 If you use a crate or carrier in your car for your pet, the ASPCA recommends that the crate should be large enough for your pet to stand, sit, lie down and turn around in. Remember to secure your pet’s crate so it will not slide or shift in the event of an abrupt stop.

5. Keep all noggins inside the vehicle.

Dogs and cats should always be kept safely inside the car and in the back seat.3 Pets who are allowed to stick their heads out the window can be injured by particles of debris or made sick by having cold air forced into their lungs. Even sniffing the breeze from an open window can lead to a vet visit if a pebble or something from the road is kicked up into your dog’s face. And never transport a pet in the back of an open pickup truck. It’s too easy for a dog or cat to jump or fall out of a truck bed.

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6. Watch the road.

As cute as they are, don’t let your pet distract you while you’re driving. In one study, 59% of survey respondents admitted to participating in at least one distracting behavior while driving with their dog, including petting and giving them treats.4

7. Bring a buddy.

Share the driving and pet caretaking duties with a friend or family member. You'll be able to relax knowing that someone you trust is keeping a close eye on your pet.

8. Rest your Rover.

Stop frequently to allow your pet to exercise and use the potty. Keep in mind never to leave the car without a collar, tag and leash.

9. Don't leave your pet alone.

A quick pit stop may feel like no time at all to you, but it's too long to leave your pet in a car. One hazard is heat: when it's 72 degrees Fahrenheit outside, the temperature inside your car can heat up to 116 degrees within an hour. On an 85-degree day, even with the windows slightly open, the temperature inside your car can reach 102 degrees in just 10 minutes. And, at these temperatures your pet can suffer irreversible organ damage or even death. An unattended pet is also an opportunity for theft. Pet thieves are on the lookout for pets who have been left alone in a car—anytime of the year—and they can strike in a matter of seconds after you walk away from your vehicle.

10. Check your car insurance.

Talk to your independent insurance agent to learn whether your car insurance will cover pet injuries in an accident. Many carriers, including Grange Insurance®, offer pet injury coverage as part of their standard auto insurance policy. Use your insurance agent as a resource to help you select the right coverage for your four-legged friend.

2 - The Humane Society of the United States
3 -
4 - AAA and Kurgo Pet Products

This article is for informational and suggestion purposes only. If the policy coverage descriptions in this article conflict with the language in the policy, the language in the policy applies. Talk to your local independent agent to learn more about Grange’s auto insurance, including pet injury coverage.

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