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Pets in vehicles: 11 things animal-lovers need to know

Okay, so you love animals. That’s cool; you’re in good company. 

You also need to get out and about to do stuff. And, at some stage in your life, you’ll probably have to take your pet somewhere in your car.

But are there any rules around this issue? Is it a big deal or is there anything you need to know? pets in vehicles

If you’ve never given it much thought, then listen up. Because, as it turns out, there’s quite a lot to be aware of that will help keep you, your pet and other people safe.

There are 11 vital nuggets of information that will stand you in good stead.

Thing 1: Avoid heatstroke

Let’s start with the temperature inside your vehicle, because every year, thousands of pets die from heat exhaustion because they’re left in a parked car without any ventilation.

You might be on the ball on a warm day, but be aware that the temperature of your car can rise very quickly (almost 20 F in 10 minutes), so the length of time you’re away from your pet is irrelevant.

Also, temperatures don’t plateau – they keep rising as time goes on. And since opening any windows a small amount doesn’t alleviate the heat issue completely, you’re best off simply leaving your pet at home when it’s warm and you have errands to do.

Thing 2: Always restrain your pet

We’ve all chuckled at the site of a dog hanging its head out of a window, enjoying the rush of wind through its fur as the vehicle in question rushes down the highway.

But the reality is, your pet should be treated like a human – and that means being properly restrained with a harness or secure carrier.

And whilst this is a sensible approach, there are actually 8 states in the USA where this is the law: Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

Thing 3: Put your dog in the right seat

Just as with babies and small children, don’t put your dog in the front if you have passenger airbags in your car. Airbags save lives, but the explosions on impact are so forceful that they can kill lightweight passengers.

For safety reasons, pets need to be placed in the rear seats or in the bed of a trunk.

Thing 4: Drive a car that’s suitable for pets

If you’re shopping for a new car now or in the future, pay attention to which ones will cater for your pet. If you put your dog’s needs first now, he or she will be happier in the long-run.

Need some ideas? Dogs need large cars that are easy to get in and out of, while some vehicles (such as the Honda Odyssey) have a system that allows drivers to keep an eye on their pet via the dashboard.

Thing 5: Use a pet-friendly car rental

If you’re on vacation and are taking your pet, then why not rent a pet-friendly car? 

There are plenty of rental organizations that exist with the specific aim of making your precious pup as comfy as possible.

Thing 6: Get the right-sized crate or carrier

If you’re going down the crate or carrier route, then it’s vital that you pick the perfect size for your animal. There are a load of different styles on the market, such as wire mesh, hard plastic and soft-sided. But really, size is more important.

Your crate or carrier needs to be big enough for your pet to stand, sit down, lie down and turn around in. Anything else would be too cruel and restrictive.

Thing 7: Test your crate or carrier out at home 

Be sure to let your pet try your crate or carrier out at home before sticking them in it in your vehicle (and hoping for the best).

If he or she can experiment with it in the comfort of their own patch and on their own terms, the whole experience will be much smoother for you in the long run.

Thing 8: Prepare for any long road trips 

Eyeing up some solid travelling time? Don’t make a long road trip your pet’s first time in the car. Take your animal on a number of shorter excursions first, so as to prepare both your pet and you for what it’s going to be like.

Thing 9: Don’t attempt any feeding in a car

This never ends well. Work any mealtimes around any journeys and ensure that your dog eats at least 3-4 hours before any movement. For short trips, this won’t be a problem, but if you’re trekking across the country then you’ll need to do some forward-planning.

Thing 10: Pack plenty of supplies

Anyone with kids is probably way ahead of me here, but just in case, take travel papers, a waste scoop, plastic bags and any required medication with you (especially on longer journeys).

Also, bring some bottled water for him or her to drink. 

Thing 11: Bring one of their favourite toys

Sometimes, all the best laid plans can go to waste and your pet might be fidgety or anxious for a reason unbeknown to you.

If that happens and your doggie needs comforting, bringing a familiar toy or blanket could be the answer.


Matt Press is a copywriter who has written words for some of the UK’s top brands. He’s also a car nut and owner of a driving school that offers intensive driving lessons in the UK.

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