Driving with Jens: Keeping pets safe in your vehicle

In my last column I discussed ways to avoid the tragedy which happened recently in Burnaby, B.C. a where a child died after being left in a hot vehicle. I received several messages from readers and followers about protecting pets from the same fate.

Having your pet join you and your family on a road trip certainly offers many rewards but it also adds many risks. It’s a good idea to have a family conversation about the risks involved traveling with your pets and how to minimize them.

You would never consider allowing a small child to ride in the front seat and especially on your lap, for fear of what could happen in a crash. The same goes for pets. Your pet would be propelled into the dash or windshield at the same velocity as a child would.

Keep in mind that a 30 kilogram pet traveling at 50 kilometers per hour turns into a 12,000 kilogram projectile in a crash. Airbags deployed in a crash can also seriously injure or kill your pet.

The recent Motor Vehicle Act survey posed questions about whether the new legislation should require pets to be restrained while travelling in your vehicle.

Steel wire pet barriers keep your pet cordoned off to one area of your vehicle. This assists in keeping them away from the front seat, and helps avoid distracted driving, but it offers very little protection in the event of a crash.

Your pet will be ping-ponged about that area of your vehicle. These barriers are often attached to side windows with only plastic suction cups or pressure fitted. They are meant to keep pets separated from other occupants in the vehicle, but not for keeping pets safe in the event of a crash.

Crash tested pet crates that are properly secured within your vehicle are a much safer way for your pet to travel. Always choose a good quality one that is the right size for your pet and offers lots of ventilation. Poor air circulation and overheating can cause serious issues.

There are pet harness restraints available that click into the child seat connectors on your car. These may be a better option than crates. Once again choose quality and fit over price.

Just like children should never be left in hot vehicles, neither should pets. Never leave your pet inside the car even on just moderately hot days. When it is 26 C outside your car it can get to 43 degrees inside within twenty minutes. This is way too hot for your pet.

Even leaving the windows open isn’t enough. Leaving the engine running with the air conditioning may be a better option but could also result in serious trouble if the vehicle stops running for some reason. Some newer vehicles shut off by themselves after a while.

If you see a pet locked in a hot car in peril call 911 immediately. You can then take pictures of the situation, including the make and model of the vehicle and license plate number. You can canvas nearby stores and have staff page their customers.

As a last resort people have sometimes taken action themselves by breaking into the car to rescue the pet. This can be risky because the pet could be sprayed with broken glass or get spooked and run through the broken glass.

When travelling with your pet be sure to bring lots of water and familiar food it will help keep them happy. Portioning out meals in zip lock bags makes feeding easy. Bring extra meals in case you are delayed. It will make a big difference to your pet if you stop every few hours to let them stretch their legs and use the bathroom.

It’s never a good idea to let your pet hang their head out the window in the wind. It may look really fun but it can cause serious eye, ear, and even head injuries.

Vaccination tags, license tags, and tags with your pet’s name, your name and your cell number should be on their collar. Have some recent pictures of your pets on your phone in case they get lost and you need to show people.

If you are travelling in the United States make sure you have a copy of your up-to-date vaccination forms. Your vet can get you a copy.

While all these points may seem obvious and simple, it’s easy in the rush of getting ready to overlook these items. It’s a good idea to make a checklist for your pet like you do for yourself while planning a trip.

Catch Driving, with Jens on CHON FM Thursdays at 8:15. If you have any questions or comments you can reach out to Jens Nielsen at drivingwithjens@gmail.com, Facebook or Twitter: @drivingwithjens.

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