How To Travel with Your Pets
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UPDATED: Mar 19, 2020
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For many, the idea of a holiday without bringing the pets along is untenable. They’re part of the family, after all. They should also enjoy the holidays with the family.
Traveling with pets is perfectly legal, but it does bring up a number of unique challenges that you need to account for. The most obvious one is that your pet needs to be restrained while you’re driving, and it can’t be kept on the lap of the driver.
Penalties vary from state to state, but each state has its own penalties if the pet is unrestrained and/or determined to be a distraction to the driver.
There are additional fines if the pet is injured because it wasn’t restrained. A sudden break at even 15 mph can throw the pet into the windscreen. Injuries done to animals this way are covered by animal cruelty laws, which can involve prison time along with the fine.
Keep Your Pet Protected
The best way to prevent any of the above from occurring is to keep the pet in an enclosed crate or a carrier when traveling. There are a couple of important considerations for this:
- The pet should be able to sit, lay down, stand, and turn around in it.
- It needs to be well-ventilated. Commercial pet carriers feature plenty of mesh or other openings to allow air to move through the carrier.
- Get the pet used to the carrier before adding the stress of driving onto them. Get the pet to use the space in the comfort of home and become comfortable with it first. Additionally, if you can, take the pet on a series of short trips before the holiday.
- Make sure the enclosure has plenty of bedding so that the pet can sleep while driving. Having a favorite toy in there for the familiarity that it provides is a good idea as well.
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How to Handle Food and Water
Before you depart, give your pet a light meal, about 3-4 hours before getting them into the car. Once on the road, make sure they have access to water, but you should not feed them, even if there’s a long drive ahead. We all know pets can get sick–it’s why we buy pet insurance after all. Pets can experience car sickness, and eating while moving will encourage that response.
At the same time, you can’t have your pet getting hungry, so make sure you factor plenty of stops along the way into your schedule. You will likely travel much less on any given day than you’d be able to drive without a pet.
Make sure that you have sufficient pet food and clean water to cover the entire trip, because water taps may or may not be available at rest stops, and unlike humans, it can at times be difficult to find the right food for your animal.
Finally, make sure you have towels and clean up equipment to hand. Pets can have accidents while traveling, and you’ll want to clean that up quickly, both for the sake of the smell in the car and for the pet’s comfort.
The Best Way to Take Roadside Breaks
Take good advantage of the roadside rest stops. As mentioned above, they’ll all to the length of travel time, but they’ll give your pet a chance to recover and stretch.
One thing you should always do when at roadside rest stops is to keep the pet on a leash. No matter how well behaved and trained the pet is, and no matter how responsive it is to your name, a roadside stop is an unfamiliar area, and that can confuse the pet. And it’s a well-known fact that some breeds have more behavior issues than others.
It can become more aggressive (particularly if there’s a lot of pent up energy from a long drive), and, as many roadside stops are bordering wilderness areas, there’s also the risk of snakes, spiders, or other animal threats. Keeping the pet leashed allows it to get its exercise without risk to the pet, and those around it.
It should go without saying, but don’t leave the pet in the car when taking a break, under any circumstances. Cars get very hot, very quickly, in warm weather, and the pet’s fur accumulates further heat, making heatstroke a very real risk, even in mild temperatures.
In winter, an unattended car freezes rapidly. Since pets have limited movement available to warm themselves, this can become a deadly environment for the animal. So, if you leave the car for any length of time, make sure your pet comes with you.
With the right preparation, and remembering to keep the pet’s comfort in mind at all times, there’s no reason that you can’t have a wonderful holiday with your pet. Just remember to keep them comfortably restrained, and take plenty of breaks along the way so the pet can have the chance to stretch and eat something.