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Your New Backseat Driver W


Safety tips to practice better travel with pets


ith the beautiful weather of spring, many Oklahomans will hit the roads


for an adventure. And, some will take their furry family members. “Look at traveling with a pet like traveling with a child,” says Dr. Elis- abeth Giedt, director of continuing education, extension and commu- nity engagement at the Center for Veterinary Health Sciences at Okla- homa State University. As a veter- inarian, mom and pet owner, that was her advice in a nutshell. Being more specific, she suggests securing your pets in the car—in a crate, if you have room, or using a safety harness that fits around the animal, not just around the neck, and attaches to the seat belt. This prevents your pet from roaming around in the car, perhaps distract- ing you or impeding your ability to control the vehicle, and keeps the animal from being thrown around in case of an accident.


Letting your dog ride loose in the


back of a truck is asking for trouble. Again, a crate, securely fixed to the bed, is best. The other option is us- ing a harness and cross-ties to situate the dog securely in the center of the truck, away from the sides. Never tie an animal around the neck because of the possibility of choking it. She also had a word about dogs who like to have their heads out of the window. “They love it, but it’s dangerous. It would be like a motorcyclist without a windshield or gog- gles. Bugs and all sorts of road debris can dam- age their eyes, nose or ears.” The biggest danger, she says, is pets escaping during travel.


“Having identification on your pet is very important; I suggest both a microchip and a collar with information on the tag,” she says. “While I’ve never been checked,” she contin- ues, “it’s good to have your pet’s health records. Some states require this and it is handy if you find you need to board your pet for some reason.”


30 Photo courtesy of Center for Pet Safety


She also suggests bringing your own water for your pet. “Dogs and cats are very sensitive to changes in water.”


Giedt is a believer in crates for pets and sug- gests using them at home for very young ani- mals. Dogs in particular will become acclimated to being crated. It’s not punishment but provid- ing a safe, familiar space both at home and on the road. While some crates may be too large for use in a standard automobile, many collapse easily for assembling at your destination. Mary Karner, Canadian Valley Electric


Cooperative member, concurs. Mary is active with border collie rescue and works for an in- ternal medicine referral veterinarian. Two of her five dogs participate in agility and disc compe- titions and are often traveling. Owner of a Honda Element, Karner built a platform for her dog crates with room beneath for storage.


“My particular vehicle has just two front seats and two rear seats, but I've taken the rear seats out. There's room between the front of the platform and the front seats where a couple more crates (containing dogs) can be hauled, or luggage, or whatev- er,” she says. “If I'm traveling with someone else and hauling more than just my two dogs, I have a cargo box that attaches to my luggage rack to store our belongings. “All of my dogs are trained to crates—one of the first things we do, whether they've come to me as puppies or adults. It's im- portant for dogs to be crate trained not only for transport, but dogs spend their down time in crates when they're participating in sporting events, and dogs who are crate trained have a much easier time when they have to stay at the vet for a day.” Owners of Volvo, Honda or Subaru vehi- cles may be able to find items designed es- pecially for these vehicles. Be aware there are no industry-wide standards or mandated tests for the safety and quality of pet-pro- tection items. Lindsey Wolko, founder of the Center


for Pet Safety (CPS), discovered this the hard way—by the failure of a harness she thought would protect her dog in the car. Already involved as a consultant for numerous pet product manufacturers, she quit that job to start the 501(c)(3) research and advocacy orga- nization. CPS is not affiliated with any pet-prod- uct manufacturer but raises funds and conducts scientifically valid product testing. Of the many harnesses CPS has tested, the only product meeting their standards is the Sleepypod Clickit Sport. The Sleepypod Clickit Utility harness was highly rated in 2013 but has not been submitted for certification. Wolko, a Virginia resident and member of the Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative, says tests on crates should begin sometime this year. Product testing is not free so only consumer demand will push companies to have their items tested. CPS certification means great protection for your pets.


By Elaine Warner


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