Travelling on holiday with your pets can be a magical experience. Holidays are an important part of life for many people and being able to share the experience with your beloved pet can really enhance the trip.
They get to enjoy the excitement of new surroundings and the new sights and smells and you can relax knowing that your pet will receive the level of care and attention they have come to expect. There’s no need to worry about being separated from your furry friend or them becoming anxious without you there.
Getting there, however, can present its own problems but thankfully there are plenty of options to keep you all safe and comfortable when making a journey.
There are a few things to consider before you begin your trip:
- The law.The Highway Code states that drivers must ‘make sure dogs and other animals are suitably restrained’ in a car. An accident caused by you becoming distracted by your pet could see you charged with dangerous driving.
- Their safety. A restraint of some kind will help keep your pet safer from serious injuries in the unfortunate event of a car accident.
- Your safety.A loose animal in the car could seriously injure you or your passengers in a crash. Just as with unrestrained human passengers, a dog the size of a Border Collie would be thrown forward with a force equivalent to the weight of a polar bear at an impact of just 30mph.
- Preventing accidents. A loose pet can be a distraction to the driver and potentially cause an accident. They could even get in the way of the steering wheel or the brake pedal.
- Your insurance. Most car insurance policies require you to restrain your pets properly in line with the Highway Code. A loose pet in the car could invalidate both your motor and pet insurance in the event of a claim, leaving you with expensive costs.
So what is the safest way to travel with your pet, ensuring yours and their comfort on the way?
A pet carrier or seatbelt will prevent your dog or cat from moving around in the car and distracting the driver. There are many different products which will help keep you all safe, for example:
- Crates and carriers (suitable for smaller pets)
- Pet seatbelts
- Boot/luggage guards (be aware that these can protect passengers in an accident but won't protect your pet if they are loose in the boot).
Always ensure that you buy your product from somewhere which can guarantee their conformance to any safety regulations and follow instructions carefully to ensure that the type of restraint or carrier you have chosen is effective. Please note that pets should never be restrained just by a collar while in the car.
Some pets are quite happy in a car but for some it can be a traumatic experience at first so it’s important that your pet is comfortable and stress free on journeys. Here’s a few tips:
Start young where possible. Animals who are used to travelling in a car from a young age are much more likely to be relaxed during car trips. Introduce them to the car as early as you can by taking them to the parked car and getting them used to sitting in it with you before you start making short trips. Reward your pet at the end of the journey so it becomes a treat.
Don’t travel on a full stomach. Leave it a few hours after feeing your pet before setting off to help prevent travel-sickness.
Take a break. If you’re taking your pet on a longer journey, make sure they have a chance to stretch their legs and have a drink. Depending on the length of the journey, it might be worth having several stops, especially if the weather is fine.
Don’t leave your pets in the car. Cats and dogs can’t cool themselves down like humans can. They can overheat very quickly if they’re left in a car, and get into a critical condition. Winding the window down or parking the car in the shade is not enough to keep them cool. Always take them from the vehicle with you.
Don't give them treats while driving. Your pet could choke if she eats on the move so save them for a reward when you stop.
Don’t let dogs stick their head out the window. They could knock their head on something, fall out of the window or distract other drivers. It will also dry their eyes out, causing discomfort.
Keep them cool. Cars can warm up very quickly (even when it’s not so hot outside) so it’s important to be aware of your pet’s temperature and turn the air conditioning on or open a window a little to keep them cool while you’re moving.
Remember to take extra precautions when travelling in hot weather. Your pet will require more stops to rehydrate and the opportunity to cool down where possible so take plenty of water and have frequent breaks. Travelling in the morning or evening will be cooler and it’s important to regularly check the temperature where they are situated in the vehicle. Use cooling aids where possible and try and minimise the time spent in the car by having regular breaks.
Taking these precautions will help ensure that you and your pets can get the most out of your trips together. Just a few adjustments here and there will keep you all safe, comfortable and make sure you arrive ready to enjoy your holiday.