Whether you take your clients’ dogs out in your car or you’re offering customers advice, knowing the rules with regards to travelling with pets is vital.

Does my dog have to be secured at all times when travelling in the car? Which pet travel restraint should I use? As pet professionals, it’s likely you might get asked these sorts of questions. So, it pays to know the answers.

Certainly, when it comes to pet travel safety, it’s vital to stay up to date with the latest information and to educate pet parents on the legal requirements when it comes to travelling with pets.

What exactly are the rules?

Have you ever seen a person driving with their pet sitting in their lap? How many times have you seen a dog sat unsecured in the front passenger seat with its head hanging out of the window? It’s likely you’ll answer yes to both these questions. However, did you know that both these activities are illegal?

Indeed, in 2013 harsher rules were introduced in Australia that prohibits a pet from sitting in the driver’s area. Aside from the fact that having a pet roaming around the driver’s vicinity can be incredibly distracting, it can also be dangerous.

While the laws change from state to state, the following rules exist Australia-wide:

  • A driver must not drive with an animal in his or her lap
  • A motorcycle rider must not ride with an animal between the handlebars and the rider
  • Dogs travelling on utility vehicles must be restrained by a cage or tether

Under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, the RSPCA can issue fines or recommend jail time if an animal becomes injured due to the owner’s negligence.

The benefits of pet restraints

Certainly, in some states (like Victoria, for example, the laws don’t require pets to be restrained while travelling in a vehicle. However, it makes sense to do so. Ensuring pets are safely secured — either using a pet seatbelt, create or cargo barrier — means fewer distractions for the driver and better safety for animals.

Without a doubt, using a restraint when travelling with pets benefits pet owners and their animals in myriad ways.

  • A pet restraint prevents dogs from moving around the vehicle. In particular, it’ll stop a dog from jumping from the back to the front seats, potentially distracting the driver.
  • In the event of a crash, a pet restraint will decrease the risk of injury to the animal. It will reduce the chances of the dog being projected through the front windscreen, causing injury or even death.
  • A restraint will also stop a dog from jumping out the car window.

So, when it comes to educating pet owners about car restraints, it’s important to advise them of their travel safety options.

Travelling with pets: the safety options

When travelling with pets, there are three main options: carrier or crate, pet harness, and a cargo barrier. You can discuss the options with your clients and even talk through the pros and cons of each to help them make an informed decision.

Cargo barrier

A cargo barrier will keep pets in the cargo (AKA boot) of the car. This is a great way to prevent animals from jumping into the passenger or driver’s area. Cargo barrier can be purchased to suit individual vehicles makes and models. They are perfect for station wagons and four-wheel drives. However, depending on the size of your cargo, as well as the distance and frequency of travel, it may be worthwhile considering the use of a crate or harness too.

Pet crate

When travelling with pets, using a crate is an excellent option for many reasons. Not only does it help keep a pet safe, but it can also help reduce a pet’s anxiety and stop wet or muddy dogs from getting the entire car dirty.

Remind pet owners that the crate should be placed in the boot (not balanced on the back seats!) and it must be the correct size to suit their dog. Dogs should be able to stand up and turn around in the crate. To help ease travel anxiety, a towel or blanket can be placed over the crate. Additionally, for extra safety, the crate can be secured.

Harness or pet seat belt

A harness fits around the pet’s chest and is then secured to the car seat belt. This ensures the dog remains in place, even if the car comes to an abrupt halt.

Fuss-free pet travel

Holidays with pets can be awesome fun, so long as pets don’t get car sick! In actual fact, motion sickness in pets is quite common. To help pet owners prevent motion sickness in their pets, why not offer up a few handy hints.

Safety and support — remind your clients that using a pet carrier or harness can help them keep their pet safe and secure (and avoid a fine!). What’s more, using a pet carrier can be useful in the event their dog gets car sick or has diarrhoea, as it’ll prevent a mess in the car.

Start with shorter trips — to help avoid or overcome motion sickness, suggest pet parents start with short trips and gradually build up. This will help the pet get used to being in the car.

Temperature control — ensuring the temperature is cool will help our furry friends to feel relaxed and calm.

Home comforts — encourage owners to give their pet a blanket or one of their old jumpers or t-shirts to snuggle into while on the journey. This just helps to minimise anxiety in pets.

Take regular breaks —when travelling with pets it’s vital to factor in regular toilet breaks. Not only will this help prevent dogs from having an accident in the car, but pets will also enjoy the fresh air.

Withhold food — having an empty tummy may help stop nausea. Ideally, owners should withhold food 12 hours before travel. However, they should make certain their pet has access to clean, fresh water.

Image source: Unsplash.com

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Liz has a passion for all things cat and dog, and was one of the first in Australia to bring Pet Insurance to the market. She has headed up Petsecure for the past 12 years, and is committed to promoting and supporting the amazing work done by rescue groups around Australia, and those who work to promote a better life for all animals.

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