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Be prepared when traveling with pet

Tribune-Review
| Friday, November 28, 2014 10:08 p.m

DETROIT — Millions of pet owners could unknowingly put their dogs and cats at risk when they travel for the holidays, but a few tips can make the journey safer and more enjoyable.

“We recommend all pets be secured in vehicles,” said Ryan McTigue, Michigan Humane Society spokesman. “You can use a crate or a harness that attaches to the seat belt for dogs. Cats should always be in a carrier. They don’t generally do well in cars.”

“It’s for the safety of the pet and the people in the car,” said Dr. Alexander Byron of Greenfield Animal Hospital in Southfield. “An unsecured pet is potentially a projectile inside the vehicle, flying at 50 or 60 mph. In an accident, it could hit the windshield and be injured, or it could strike one of the human occupants.” Unsecured pets can also be thrown out of the vehicle in an accident, where they may be injured, struck by another vehicle or simply wander away, lost and afraid.

More than half of American pet owners travel with their animals, according to a study by AAA and Best Western hotels.

A few tips:

• Never drive with a pet on your lap. It’s dangerous for the animal, you and other drivers. The driver’s air bag would immediately kill any animal small enough to fit on your lap. The animal could also slip onto the floor because of bumpy roads or a sudden maneuver.

“If they get under the brake or the accelerator pedal, you’re faced with a difficult decision: do I hit the brake and squish my pet or plow into the person in front of me,” Byron said.

• It’s a bad idea to let your dog stick its head out the window.

“The dog may like it, but stones that can chip a windshield could injure or blind a dog,” McTigue said. Even a grain of sand or leaf could damage a dog’s eyes at automotive speeds.

• Because animals can slip out of vehicles while far from home, they should always wear collars with ID tags.

• Byron suggests getting animals acclimated to car travel when young.

AAA publishes a book of tips for traveling with pets: The “AAA Petbook.”

Mark Phelan is the Detroit Free Press auto critic. He can be reached at mmphelan@freepress.com.

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