Road trip! Even the pets are going!
You pack up the minivan-luggage, coolers, maps, family-Rover jumps into the back seat, and the kids take turns holding Sheba on their laps. Everyone's seat belt is fastened, Rover's tail is wagging, and Sheba has rumbled into a contented purr. All ready to go, right?
No! All passengers should be restrained while traveling in a car (or any vehicle), including pets!
Three-quarters of occupants ejected from vehicles during an accident are killed, and seat belts are the most effective means of preventing fatalities or serious injuries. An unrestrained pet is not only in danger, he's also dangerous.
In a 30-mph crash, a child that weighs 15 pounds can generate an impact force of more than 300 pounds. This means that a 60-pound dog, in a similar crash, will hit a windshield, back seat, or another passenger with a force of 1,200 pounds! And even if miraculously not injured, an unrestrained, frightened pet can hamper efforts of rescue workers at the accident scene.
Even if a pet doesn't directly interfere with the driver, a dog or cat moving about in a car can cause a big distraction. You may remember hearing on the news how novelist Stephen King was struck by a van while walking a country road. King was badly injured, and the driver said it happened because "he was distracted by his dog."
The Humane Society of the United States advises the safest place for a traveling pet is either properly restrained in the back seat or cargo area or (in the case of cats and very small dogs) placed in an appropriate pet carrier.
Carriers are important for cats. Often, with a well-behaved cat who likes riding in the car, the owner assumes it's just fine to put the cat in the back seat and go. But cats have been known to crawl on laps or perch on shoulders and peer into your eyes. They also like to curl up around feet -- a disaster on the driver's side. When that 18 wheeler cuts you off, you'll want to stomp on the brakes, not on Fifi!
Although keeping a pet harnessed or contained for safety is important, don't use standard safety belts on your pets. These belts are designed for the human body and could cause severe injuries to the pet. But the good news is that there are now many restraint devices designed specifically for pets.
Saab automotive company offers a complete line of pet travel gear. The complete lineup includes not only safety harnesses for dogs but other protection and convenience items like a travel bowl for food and water, a gear bag (with a compartment to hold a gallon of drinking water), and a book that lists "pet friendly" lodging throughout the United States. Check with your local Saab dealer or call (800) SAAB-USA.
Not Just Smart -- It's the Law!
Ever notice when you enter some states that you'll see large signs saying "Buckle up; it's the law!" In California, that law applies to pets too. The California "tether law" provides for fines of not less than $50 for people driving with animals that are not restrained. And in some states, like New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, dogs are banned from pickup trucks (with the exception of certain working dogs).
More and more, people are beginning to understand that restraints for pets are essential for the safety of all the passengers -- human and animal. Restraints also help a pet feel more secure while traveling, especially when you have to make some quick turns or maneuvers.
Now, is everybody buckled up or in their carriers? Let's hit the road!