Take care of your best friend
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As dogs, cats and other pets are considered part of the family, they often accompany owners on weekends away and trips to the park.
Whether it’s on a long journey or a quick outing down the road, it’s important always to have pets secured safely in the vehicle — for their safety, your safety and for others on the road.
Although there are no specific requirements for leash lengths or cages, the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) has guidelines for carrying animals.
It says a driver mustn’t operate a vehicle in a condition that could cause: injury to a person or animal, annoyance to any person, damage to any property or distraction to the driver. The same goes for driving with a load that is unsafely covered or secured.
NZ Veterinary Association’s Rochelle Fergusson recommends that dogs need to be restrained in a vehicle, and says that there are several ways to do so, including use of a seatbelt harness so the driver isn’t distracted.
“It fits across the dog’s shoulders and the belt slips between the dog and harness,” Fergusson says.
“It’s good when opening the car door because they won’t jump out into oncoming traffic.”
Dogs distracting drivers is the most common cause of road accidents involving pets; it was the cause of seven crashes causing injury last year, according to the NZ Ministry of Transport. Creepy crawlies such as bees and spiders are also occasionally noted in car accident reports.
Another way to restrain dogs, particularly in station wagons, is by installing a cargo barrier to form a contained area in the back. Fergusson urges common sense be used when tying a dog on the back of a ute or flat-bed truck.
Animals should be secured with a short leash, she says, to prevent them falling off the deck.
Although dogs are considered by many to be man’s best friend, it can be a different story on the road. A study conducted by Volvo showed that in a 67km/h collision, a 27kg pet has the crash force of 2000-4000kg, which is quite a force once mobile.
Laetetia Roelofse, owner of pet care service Walkies, says animals can become the proverbial elephant in the back seat.
“Airbags are not a substitute for seatbelts and, for an unbuckled pet in the front seat, airbags can kill or cause serious injury,” she says.
Pictures/Amos Chapple/Glenn Taylor
“Whether it’s a trip to the vet, dog-walking park or to a holiday destination, it’s imperative to be fully prepared for the journey and take precautions to keep both you and your furry friend safe.”
On top of these precautionary and protection measures, AA Motoring would recommend that drivers try to prevent their dog from hanging its head out the window.
It seems to be a dog’s favourite thing to do, but it can be a distraction to passing motorists, and harmful if a vehicle or object happens to pass by too close.
If you are travelling with pets these holidays, a little planning beforehand will go a long way to ensure a successful and safe trip. Here are a few of our handy tips:
1. Containment — keep your pets to one particular area of the vehicle so you know they’re safe.
2. Cover up — invest in a pet-friendly seat cover to protect your car’s upholstery. You can remove and clean the cover when messy and, when you’re not travelling with animals, it allows you to quickly transform the seats back to normal again.
3. Clean up straight away — after journeys, take out any pet affected mats or covers and give the car a vacuum to get rid of any fur. If an accident occurs, try sprinkling baking soda on a particular spot, leaving it overnight and vacuuming the next day.
4. Travel with a pet emergency kit — it’s always good to be prepared, so include items such as paper towels, wet wipes, carpet cleaner and plastic bags. It may be necessary to carry food and water as well, but for those who have pets that suffer from motion sickness, waiting to feed them until you’ve reached your final destination is probably a better idea.