Driving with animals is often a fun and enjoyable experience, but many people are unaware that there are a lot of rules that must be followed.
Whether you are traveling with your dog, your cat, your hamster, or your iguana, there are certain steps you should take to make sure that you all have a safe, happy ride.
Before You Go
If you and your pet are setting off for any length of time – or length of road – we recommend getting your engine road-trip ready.
This is an important step that will make sure you and your family – furry and otherwise – are in a vehicle that is in the best possible shape. This will help you avoid unfortunate breakdowns that could cost you time and money.
Tip: Now that’s it’s finally summer, we have some additional suggestions on how you can protect your car this season.
Rules of the Road
Many places you travel to will have bylaws regarding driving with animals. If you have a long travel route, check out the individual bylaws to make sure that you’re in compliance.
The following are examples of Ontario bylaws that will likely be similar to those that you’ll find when you travel.
- No animal should be loose in the back box of a pickup truck. Animals need to secured in a crate, and the crate also needs to be secured.
- No animals on the driver’s lap. Animals should be in the back seat secured by a crate or seatbelt harness.
While there is currently no specific law across Ontario, a driver could be charged under the ‘crowding the driver’s seat’ bylaw if an animal is unrestrained and interfering with the driver’s safe operation of the vehicle.
Having an unrestrained animal in the car can lead to a distracted driver and a greater risk of an accident. An accident could injure you, your pet, and anyone else involved.
Never Leave Your Animal In Your Car Unsupervised
Animals should never be left alone in cars for any length of time. Even if you leave your windows cracked and “will be back in five minutes”, the temperature can rise in minutes in a car, particularly in the summer.
This puts your pet in danger. Animals get heatstroke much quicker than children and adults because they do not have sweat glands and cannot cool off that way. A dog’s internal temperature is normal at 38 degrees Celsius, and if it goes up even two degrees, they are in critical condition.
The health of your animal is not the only thing that will be affected. If you leave your animal unattended, you could potentially be charged under the Criminal Code of Canada and the provincial SPCA Act.
Driving with animals means that you should stay with your animals at all times.
Always Have Extra Supplies
Just as you should be prepared in case of an emergency, you should also prepare for your animals.
Pack extra food and water when driving with animals for any great distance. On a hot summer day, your pet will require frequent drinks and it is important to have whatever they need on hand.
In addition to food and drink, double check that you have all the necessary tethers and toys your pet will need when you get to your destination. Every city has some sort of leash or restraint law that you must follow to the letter.
Take Frequent Breaks
Driving with animals is very similar to driving with small children. Their attention spans are shorter, their level of energy is higher, and their bladders are smaller. To keep everyone happy, take breaks whenever you sense that your pet is a little on the restless side.
Tip: When you do pull over, give your furry friend a chance to use the bathroom, some water, and a quick play session. You’ll enjoy the chance to stretch your legs as much as they will.
Cleanup – Be Prepared
No matter what kind of pet you have, you’re going to have to clean up after them, especially when you’re on the road. There are some basic cleanup supplies you should have when driving with animals.
- A stoop and scoop kit for dogs – If you’re a dog owner, you’ll be familiar with this. Cities across Canada have made it a law that you have to pick up after your dog. The same applies for the open road.
- A litterbox for cats – There are some different options for cats, but they’ll be happy if cleanup involves something they’re familiar with, like the brand of litter you use. You could use disposable litter trays or opt for the scooping and bagging.
- Small animals – Using a rabbit as an example, cleanup could be as simple as disposing of shavings you’ve placed in the bottom of the carrier.
Each animal is different. Look at the routine you and your pet have in terms of cleanup and adapt for travel. This will make them happy, and a happy pet makes for a happy driver.
Tip: Pack a pet safe cleaner, paper towels, and extra garbage bags. Accidents happen, even to to most well-trained animals. They could be overly excited, or an older animal may have more trouble going long periods of time without stopping. So if a mess happens, you’ll want to be prepared.
Animals, especially dogs, are going to get excited to be in the car with their favourite people. When they get excited, they tend to move around a lot. This is not only dangerous for them, but it can be dangerous for you and other drivers if your pet interferes with your driving. They can also become projectiles in the event of an accident, which means they could suffer serious injuries, or worse.
There are a couple of options to keep everyone safe when driving with animals.
Safety-Tested Crates and Carriers
One of the most effective ways to travel with you pets is to use a safety-tested crate. When choosing a crate for your animal, make sure it is:
- The right size. Your animal has to be able to stand up and turn around in its crate but shouldn’t have too much extra room. If the crate is too big, they may get jostled around.
- Made of sturdy material, like plastic or fibreglass.
- Well-ventilated for air circulation.
If you do use a crate, make sure it is secured to your car. One of the ways you can do this is through car straps.
Some people are not comfortable with the idea of putting their pets in crates, but animals still need to be safely buckled up inside your vehicle.
There are several harnesses and tethers available for all kinds of pets that work with your vehicle’s existing seat belt. This ensures that your animal is snugly fastened and unable to roam around the car.
Turn Off Power Windows
Your pet is more interested in sticking their head out the window than worrying about opening and closing it. One slip of their paw and the window could start going up and down, potentially scaring or even hurting them.
When driving with animals, turn off your power windows to avoid any unexpected incidents.
After the Drive
As much as you love them, you know that your pets can be pretty messy. Once you get them in a confined space, their shedding problem will become ever more evident. We don’t even want to get started on that animal smell that you can’t seem to get rid of.
Luckily, we’re experts in car cleaning. We can get the inside of your car looking and smelling like new again. At least until the next time you and your pet go for a road trip.
Talk to Us About Your Road Trip Needs
Whether you are driving with animals, kids, or your college roommates, we have all of your road trip needs covered. Call 613 728-1908 to talk to one of our professional mechanics about what services we can provide.