How to travel with dogs, cats and other pets in the car

Do you know how dogs, cats or other pets should travel and be transported in your car? Learn about the restraint systems available for safe travel.

As occupants of a vehicle, pets must be properly restrained and protected. The National Association of Pet Food Manufacturers (ANFAAC) estimates that there are more than 13 million pets in Spain, and 49.3% of households have a pet.

Pet owners should know that there are some rules to follow when traveling with pets in a vehicle. If the animal does not travel properly restrained and protected, its owner or responsible person is exposed to a fine of 100 euros.

But more than the fine, you should be concerned about the safety of both your pet and the people traveling in the car. A loose animal can cause distractions in the driver, but even worse is a collision. Do you know that driving at 50 km/h a dog of 20 kilos multiplies its weight by 35 and would weigh 700 kilos? It would put the lives of the people traveling in the car at serious risk.

Traveling by car with pets

A loose animal in the car is dangerous because…

  • It increases the driver’s distraction.
  • It can interfere with driving by climbing on top of the driver or affecting mechanical systems (pedals, gear shift, etc.).
  • It poses a risk to other road users, as in the case of a dog with its head sticking out of the window, due to the risk of falling.
  • It can cause very serious and even fatal injuries to the other occupants in case of braking or impact.

Restraint systems for transporting dogs, cats and other pets in the car

Choose a restraint system that has proven its effectiveness in crash tests or is approved according to European standards, e.g. ECE R17 or DIN 75410-2. There are different types depending on the size or weight of the animal:

Harnesses

Recommended especially for dogs. They hold pets by means of the seat belt (take into account its length) or Isofix devices. Harnesses that attach to the dog’s collar do not hold the animal and pose a risk to passengers.

Dividing grille

Allows to enable the trunk for the transport of large animals in vehicles with tailgate or family vehicles. The stability of both the seat backrests and the mounting of the grille must be taken into account. The safest and most recommended are those that are mounted from the roof of the vehicle to the floor of the trunk and comply with DIN 75410-2 standards.

Carrier

This is one of the safest methods. If you place it in the trunk (for large dogs) it should be placed as close as possible to the backrest and in a transverse position with respect to the direction of travel.

For small pets, carriers should be placed inside the passenger compartment, on the floor behind the front seats. Never on the seat fastened by a seat belt, as tests show that the crate breaks and the pet is ejected through the wall of the carrier.

Recommendations according to the volume and weight of our pet

In the case of small and lightweight pets, it is recommended that they go in a carrier fitted between the front and rear seat. This prevents a cat or a small dog from moving uncontrollably inside the passenger compartment, which could distract the driver. Placing the carrier on the floor at the rear of the front seats will restrict its movement in the event of an accident. On the other hand, it is not as advisable to carry it in the back seat tied with the seat belt, as this can deform the carrier and injure the animal.

There are also harnesses for dogs, although it is always better that, whatever the size of the dog, it should be in its carrier. The option of a single hitch is not recommended because it is fragile and the carabiner can break with a dog weighing around 22 kg. It should be remembered that, in the event of a head-on collision at about 50 km/h, unrestrained pets can multiply their own weight by up to 35 times. In other words, a 20 kg dog could exceed half a ton. That is why it is necessary to restrain them properly.

More advisable than the single-hook harness or only the leash, which should not be used under any circumstances because it can seriously injure the animal in the neck, in case of an accident, are the double-hook harnesses, which will hold much more the weight of the animal.

However, for larger dogs that exceed 20 kg, it is recommended that they travel in a carrier located in the trunk, attached to the rear seats, and transversely. As an added measure, it is also useful to install a protective grill that divides the load of the occupants. It is also not advisable for animals to be loose in the trunk, even if we have installed a grid. The key is that no object or animal can hit anything, hence it is essential that they are tied and fixed in the passenger compartment, as is the case with people and seat belts. You can read more in the following link on how to organize a trunk and its cargo.

Tips for a safe trip with your pet

Pets can also have a hard time when traveling by car. The following tips will help you take care of your pet in the car.

Your pet doesn’t like to travel restrained?

You will have to get him/her used to it by using treats and petting to reinforce good behavior. Traveling properly restrained is non-negotiable.

Is she prone to motion sickness?

Before starting a car trip, visit a veterinarian for advice on tranquilizers or medication.

What food should she eat?

To avoid gastric problems, it is advisable to adapt its food during the previous days, but do not make a drastic change just at the moment of traveling because it could cause problems.

How to protect your pet in the car?

By using an appropriate restraint system and placing it correctly inside the vehicle. Never place objects next to your pet that could cause damage in case of sudden braking or an accident.

Your pet also needs to rest

Your pet also gets tired when traveling: standing still without moving, the heat… They also need to be aired outside the car every two hours at the most, drink fresh water, eat… When you take them out of the car, take special care to prevent them from running out and causing an incident. Walk your pet tied up unless there is a rest area available.

Beware of heat stroke inside the vehicle

Never leave an animal inside a stationary car, especially in summer. If the passenger compartment reaches a temperature of 40 degrees the pet could suffer dizziness and loss of consciousness. Keep in mind that they do not cool the body as humans do.

Do not forget to include your pet in a travel insurance.

If you don’t want to be unhappy, make sure that your pet is included when you take out travel insurance.

And remember that you should not only take care of your pet when it travels inside a car, you should also control it when it travels as a pedestrian. An uncontrolled animal can be in danger, and also be a risk for road safety.

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