Avoiding a hairy situation
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Dogs and cats are often considered part of the family, accompanying their owners on weekends away and trips to the park. Whether the journey is long or a quick outing down the road, it’s important to always secure pets safely in the vehicle — for the safety of you, your animal and other road users.
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”.
One of the best ways to restrain your dog in a vehicle is to purchase a seatbelt harness for the back seat. It fits across the dog’s shoulders and the belt slips between the dog and the harness. It’s also good when opening the car door because the dog 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 Ministry of Transport. Creepy crawlies such as bees and spiders are also occasionally noted in car accident reports.
Other ways to restrain dogs, particularly in stationwagons, include installing a cargo barrier to form a contained area in the back. We recommend common sense be used when tying a dog on the back of a ute or flat deck truck. Animals should be secured with a short leash to prevent them falling off the deck.
Dogs are considered a man’s best friend but it can be a different story on the road. A study by Volvo shows that in a crash at 67km/h, a 27kg pet has the crash force of 2000kg-4000kg. Airbags are not a substitute for seatbelts. And for an unbuckled pet in the front seat, airbags can kill or cause serious injury. Whether it’s a trip to the vet, park or a holiday destination, it’s imperative to be fully prepared for the journey and take precautions to keep both yourself and your furry friend safe.
Also, it is not advisable to drive with your dog’s head out the window, as much as this seems to be a favourite thing to do. It can pose a distraction to motorists, and could be dangerous if a vehicle or object happens to pass too close. Plus an insect or particle coud get in the dog’s eye.
Cats generally don’t like travelling, and so a cage is recommended if they accompany you on your trip. A good airflow and a waterproof bottom to the cage can help make a mess easy to clean. It’s also important to secure the cage at all times out of direct sunlight.
Plan ahead: If you are travelling with pets, a little planning will go a long way to ensure a safe trip.
Containment: Keep your pets to one particular area of the vehicle. This ensures that any hair or mess stays in one easy-to-clean spot.
Cover up: Invest in a pet-friendly seat cover. This can be removed for cleaning, and also transforms the seats back to normal to allow for any non-furry passengers.
Clean up straight away: Once you have ended your journey, take out any pet-affected mats or covers and give the car a vacuum to get rid of loose fur.
You may need to deodorise the interior or any mess spots. You can also try a sprinkling of baking soda, and let it sit for the night before vacuuming the next day to help extinguish unwanted smells.
Pet emergency kit: Include items such as paper towels, wet wipes, carpet cleaner and plastic bags.
It may be necessary to carry food and water but, like humans, pets canget motion sickness so it may pay to not feed them until you reach your destination.
Pheromone spray can also help to calm cats and dogs ahead of a journey. It’s always good to be prepared.