By Josh Weiss-Roessler
Most people likely have little idea what the actual rules are regulating pet travel in cars, but most states have some kind of law — or laws — on the books:
- New Jersey police can stop and fine anyone they determine to be incorrectly transporting a pet in a car. How much? The fines start at $250 and go as high as $1,000.
- Hawaii law directly states that you can’t drive with a dog on your lap.
- At least 14 states and many local jurisdictions have laws against leaving pets unattended in a vehicle.
- And in almost every state, if your pet causes you to crash, it’s a violation covered under distracted driving laws.
It may seem like most of those regulations are about protecting humans — and they are — but they were also written to keep pets safe as well. Laws can’t cover everything though, so if you really want to keep your dog safe, your best bet is to follow the below tips.
Use crash-tested crates
Crates are the best option to ensure your dog’s safety when traveling, especially in your car. Make sure to select the right size crate for your dog. It’s also critical to choose safety-certified, crash-tested crates. The 4Pets ProLine box is Cesar Millan’s choice.
Aluminum and plastic reinforced with fiberglass is preferable because these are more durable materials. Design is also important. Make sure your selected model allows for good air circulation so your furry friend can breathe easily.
Watch for good insulation to make sure your dog is comfortable all four seasons. Look for crates produced with strict quality guidelines. Reputable brands will offer you at least a two year warranty.
To make your dog transportation even safer, opt for crash bags inside the crate to provide your dog with extra protection in case of emergency breaking. Finally, for a hassle-free experience, you might want to get a ramp or steps designed to help your pooch climb in and out of the car effortlessly.
Give your dogs — and Yourself — a Break
Traveling with a dog is a little bit like traveling with a child. Even if you can push yourself to keep going for hours on end to arrive at your destination faster, dogs have different needs. Expect to stop every two or three hours to let them get out, stretch their legs, and do their business. And while you’re at it, enjoy the break. Even if you can keep going, that doesn’t mean you should. People weren’t meant to be driving in a car for 12 hours straight.
Turn off power windows
If you have a car with power windows, it’s quite easy for your dog to accidentally open them with a simple press of their paw. You might think that this is relatively harmless, especially if your pet likes to stick his or her head out in the breeze, but overexcited dogs have been known to jump out of moving vehicles, and simply taking a wrong step could lead to the window being closed on their neck and choking them.
Bring water and a bowl
Dogs need regular access to water. This is vital on a longer road trip, but even if you’re just headed out to the store, it’s smart to bring along. You never know what might happen. The best way to ensure that you always have water on hand is to store a bottle in the car as part of your emergency kit. A bowl is also nice, but in a pinch, letting your dog drink out of your cupped hand is just fine.
You should also know that, regardless of laws in your area, it’s never safe to drive with a dog in your lap, to let them ride in the open area of a vehicle (such as the back of a pickup), or to leave them alone in your car — especially in warmer weather.