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As warmer weather begins to take hold, many of us will have the urge to take a road trip to our destination of choice – and for many, the temptation is to take your four-legged friend along for the ride.

Our friends at ICBC with the help of the BC SPCA prepared some pointers and precautions on their newsroom page a few years ago urging drivers to be smart with their pets, and the subject matter remains just as relevant today.

Above all else, drivers are encouraged to use common sense, drive smart and consider the safety of your pets, if bringing them along for the ride. Key recommendations include the following:

  • Always using some form of safety restraint whenever travelling with a pet. Having your pet properly restrained can prevent them from escaping, flying forward in your vehicle, or being hurt in a crash.
  • If you’re using a crate, it should be secured by a seatbelt, cargo hooks, or placed by the rear seat to secure it in place. If unsecured, the crate can bounce around and even become a projectile. When you’re buying a crate for your dog, look for one that has been crash-tested.
  • As we all know, dogs are enamoured with hanging their heads out the window and while it’s tempting to let them do it, it leaves open the potential for corneal ulcers from flying debris – such as dust or sand.
  • For the same reason ICBC discourages children under 12 from sitting in the front seat of vehicle, the same safety risks of a deployed air bag can have devastating consequences for animals as well. To keep your furry family member safest, they should never sit in the front seat, but be secured in the back seat or cargo area of an SUV or van.
  • While your pup may be super entertaining, make sure you take steps to prevent them from becoming a distraction while you’re driving. Drivers can be ticketed and fined for driving ‘without due care and attention. So, refrain from allowing your pet to sit on your lap, from reaching into the back seat to interact with them; and from feeding, playing, or taking a photo of them while you’re driving.
  • The same caution applies if your travel companion is a cat, as they can crawl around your feet, and potentially interfere with gas or brake pedals. The BC SPCA recommends “airline type” (not cardboard) cat travel carriers and also suggest taking the time to help your cat learn to love their carrier before your first trip by offering treats, food, and a familiar blanket inside and gradually encouraging them to hang out in the carrier.
  • Drivers may not consider the heat to be a threat at this time of year, vehicles can heat up quickly in warm weather and endanger your pet’s health so always be cognizant of this potential danger.

And finally, treat your four-legged friends like they are a member of the family, by bringing food, water, dishes, bedding and toys. If you’re taking a long trip, plan for a pit stop every few hours – it’s good for drivers and pets alike to stretch and get fresh air.

Have a safe and fun road trip with your furry travel companions.

Blair Qualey is President and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of BC. You can email him at bqualey@newcardealers.ca