Road Safety and Traveling with Pets

Background Information

Traveling with the family pet is a potential hazard for both the animal and owner. Pets can cause distractions for the driver and sudden stops could cause severe injury or death to the pet.

An EU Regulation for transporting animals came into effect from 5 January 2007 and is intended to improve the welfare of animals during transport for economic activity. Even though these regulations are not intended for traveling with pets, it is important to note that the European Union has recognized the need of fitness to travel and the importance to be attentive to the safety and health not only of drivers, but also of animals being transported.

Today, more and more people consider their pets as true members of their families, and there are now many pet travel products that make traveling with pets easier and much safer. Animals tend to get upset and disorientated when traveling by car. Knowing how to cope with this is vital to their wellbeing - as well as your own!

Before traveling with your pet

  • We need to ask whether it is a good idea to take your companion animal on vacation with us – is it best for the animal as well or only best for us? 
  • Early acclimation to car travel is the key. If your pet dislikes traveling by car, it might be worth taking it out for a few trips in the car before you set off to try to prepare it for the journey ahead. 
  • If you will be going over international borders, make sure you have your pet's proof of rabies vaccination and their current health certificate to hand.
  • Some companion animals shouldn't travel at all. If your companion animal is very young or very old, sick, recovering from surgery, or pregnant, then leave her at home. 
  • On the day you leave, maintain your pet's usual feeding routine. Anything out of the ordinary will probably make them feel more uneasy.
  • Keep favourite toys and food handy as animals tend to respond better when they are surrounded by familiar things.

Restraining the Pet

It is of the utmost importance that the driver of the vehicle is not distracted by fellow passengers – irrespective of whether these are humans or animals!

  • Net pet barriers can keep animals in the safe area of your vehicle and keep them from distracting the driver. 
  • Truly pampered pets can ride in style in booster seats, right next to their owners. 
  • These pet travel seats are supported from below, so your pet has a great view along with a comfortable ride. There are straps to secure your pet to the basket of the booster seat. 
  • There are various sizes of padded pet vehicle safety harnesses that secure your pet to the vehicle’s seat belt system. 
  • The safety harness keeps your pet from distracting the driver and keeps your pet secure in the event of a sudden stop. 
  • If you are involved in a car accident, the restraining device will keep your companion animal from crashing into the front window or car seat.

Health of the traveling animal companion / Pet

  • As soon as you know your companion animal is vacationing with you, see your veterinarian. 
  • Have your vet check your companion animal's general fitness and ability to travel.
  • Check with your vet that your pet has had fully up-to-date vaccinations. 
  • Take along a jug of cold water in case other water sources are not available. 
  • Stop every couple of hours to allow your pet to get some exercise. Remember to pack the lead! 
  • Don't let your pet put its head out of the car window in case grit and dust get in its eyes. This can cause a nasty injury or infection. 
  • Be sure to keep the windows closed, or open them slightly on a warm day. 
  • Don't leave your pet alone in the car if you can help it. The temperature can soar very quickly inside a locked car. 
  • If you must leave your pet in a parked car, make sure you lock the doors and park in some shade. 
  • Keep a first-aid kit containing bandages, gauze squares and antiseptic cream in the car. Anti-diarrhoea tablets are also useful. Ask your vet to recommend the best ones for your pet. You should keep the phone numbers of your vet and a 24-hour emergency vet hospital near where you are staying with the kit. 
  • If you'll be at your vacation spot more than just a few days, if possible get a reference from your vet for another vet at your destination. When you get to your destination, find the veterinarian's office on a map or ask around for directions.
  • Knowing where to go if problems arise will make it easier on everyone.

In case of an accident / Identification of the Pet

It is important to consider the fate not only of human passengers in the unfortunate event of an accident, but also our animal passengers!

  • No matter what transportation you choose, your companion animal should wear a collar, license, and proper identification at all times. 
  • The identification tags should have your companion animal's name, your name, address and telephone number on it. If there is room also add the name and telephone number of a person who could serve as an emergency contact in case your companion animal is lost. 
  • A nylon collar or harness is best for either a cat or a dog. Never allow your companion animal to travel wearing a choke-chain. The collar-pull could become snagged on the carrier or other object and he/she may choke to death. 
  • A cat must wear a safety stretch collar to prevent getting hung up on hooks, branches, or other protruding objects. 
  • Keep handy your companion animal's shot records, a written description and several photos of your companion animal in case he/she becomes lost. 
  • You will need these to claim your companion animal from the local animal center when they find him/her. The written description should include your companion animal's name, height, weight, color, and any distinguishing marks.

Rules of the Road on Driving with Pets:

General duties of driver or passenger of vehicle on public road

Reg 308.   (1)  No person driving or having a vehicle on a public road shall—

(a)   cause such vehicle to travel backwards unless it can be done in safety, or cause it to run backwards for a distance or time longer than may be necessary for the safety or reasonable convenience of any occupant of that vehicle or of other traffic on such road; or

(b)   follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent having regard to the speed of such other vehicle and the traffic on and the condition of the roadway, or more closely than is prescribed in these regulations;

(c)   permit any person, animal or object to occupy any position in or on such vehicle which may prevent the driver thereof from exercising complete control over the movements of the vehicle or signalling his or her intention of stopping, slowing down or changing direction;

(d)   when driving such vehicle, permit any person to take hold of or interfere with the steering or operating mechanism of the vehicle;

(e)   when driving such vehicle, occupy such position that he or she does not have complete control over the vehicle or does not have a full view of the roadway and the traffic ahead of such vehicle.

(f)    allow such vehicle to remain unattended on such road without setting its brake or adopting such other method as will effectively prevent the vehicle from moving from the position in which it is left;

(g)   if such vehicle is parked or is stationary at the side of such road, drive the vehicle from that position unless he or she is able to do so without interfering with moving traffic approaching from any direction and with safety to himself or herself and others;

(h)   fail to give an immediate and absolute right of way to a vehicle sounding a device or bell or displaying an identification lamp in terms of section 58(3) or 60 or regulation 176;

(i)    allow any portion of his or her body to protrude beyond such vehicle while it is in motion on such road except for the purpose of giving any hand signal which he or she is required or authorised to give in terms of these regulations or unless he or she is engaged in examining or testing or parking such vehicle;

(j)    permit any person or animal to occupy the roof, any step or running board or any other place on top of a vehicle while such vehicle is in motion;

(k)   cause or allow the engine thereof to run in such manner that it emits smoke or fumes which would not be emitted if the engine were in good condition or ran in an efficient manner;

(l)    cause or allow the engine thereof to run while the motor vehicle is stationary and unattended;

(m)  negligently or wilfully deposit or cause or permit to be deposited any petrol or other liquid fuel or any oil or grease or other flammable or offensive matter, ashes or other refuse, of whatever nature, from such vehicle upon or alongside such road; or

(n)   cause or allow the engine thereof to run while petrol or other flammable fuel is being delivered into the fuel tank of such vehicle, or cause or allow such engine to be started up before the delivery of the petrol or other flammable fuel into the fuel tank of such vehicle has been completed and the cover of such fuel tank has been replaced.

(2)   No person, other than the driver, shall take hold of or interfere with the steering or operating mechanism of a vehicle while it is in motion on a public road, unless it may reasonably be inferred that the driver is no longer capable of steering or controlling such vehicle.

(3)   No passenger in a vehicle on a public road shall permit any part of his or her body to protrude beyond such vehicle.

(4)   No person shall enter or alight from any vehicle on a public road unless such vehicle is stationary and unless he or she can do so with safety to himself or herself and other users of the road.

(5)   No person shall drive, pull or push a vehicle upon a sidewalk: Provided that the provisions of this subregulation shall not apply to a perambulator, invalid chair, baby cart or child’s play vehicle.

Also visit the following sections:

Pedestrians and Safety with Dogs/ Preventing attacks from Dogs

Packing The Vehicle Safely For The Road Trip

Avoiding distractions whilst driving