Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Safety Fur-st!

For most of us, the recent Easter celebrations meant that a great many people hit the roads to go away on holiday. But have you given thought to how to travel safely with your four-legged family members? Or are you more inclined to stay at home due to fears about their safety?

A recent survey carried out by Volvo in the United States shows that around a third of drivers worry about the safety of their pets in the car whilst driving, with almost half of those questioned not having safety gear for their pets when they are travelling. 

The figures are similar for the UK, too, with Dogs Trust estimating that 48% of dog owners could be breaking the Highway Code by not properly restraining their dogs whilst in the car. Whilst nearly 60% of people feel that having an unrestrained dog in a vehicle is dangerous, one in five owners regularly travel with their dogs unrestrained! In a survey conducted by Direct Line, 22% of vets questioned said travelling without proper restraint was the main cause of injury or death of pets involved in a traffic accident. 

Rule 57 of the Highway Code clearly states: "When in a vehicle, make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly."

There are a number of ways to keep Fido safe and secure, minimise doggy distractions, and put your mind at ease while driving. If you want to have your pooch travel in the back seat of your vehicle, you can get a special dog harness that can be attached to a fastened seat belt, as shown below. It is recommended that your dog sits behind the front passenger seat, so that they are less likely to be a distraction to the driver, or the middle seat for cars that have rear and side airbags.

Although most estate cars and SUVs come with a built-in luggage guard, these will not suffice in keeping your pet secure, should you be involved in an accident. And if you think the worst that could happen is that your dog slips and slides into the back of the seats, you're very wrong. An untethered dog weighing just 50lbs (just under 23kg) – that's about the same as a Basset Hound, or a Springer Spaniel – would be thrown with the force of a 1500lb projectile if you crashed at only 35mph (1). For peace of mind, a crash crate offers even more protection, and is particularly effective against rear-end collisions or shunts. Some, such as the TransK9, even have an emergency hatch, so your dog can be removed even if the rear doors are blocked in a collision. It's also a good idea to add some external stickers or signs indicating that you have a dog on board; at the very least, other dog owners will probably give you a little extra consideration on the road!

Our book Dogs on wheels is packed full of useful information for travelling with your canine companion. From helpful advice, insights into your dog's world; guidance on choosing the right vehicle and pet restraints, this book covers it all. If you are still unsure about how to travel safely with your dog, you can discuss the matter with your vet – or a specialist supplier – for the best options available to you, your pet, and your vehicle.  

Be sure that all members of your family are safe and secure for the long road ahead!

(1) Katherine Miller, Director of Applied Science and Research for the ASPCA

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