Must-Have Accessories for when You and Your Pet Hit the Road
Not only do American drivers continue looking for the road less traveled but increasingly they take along the family pet, too. What kinds of products make it easier and safer to share your vehicle with nonhuman companions?
"A lot of manufacturers are coming out with convenience products," said Bob Vetere, president of the American Pet Products Manufacturer's Association. "That trend is only going to grow as baby boomers age and young professionals put off having children."
According to the APPMA, some 40% of pet owners regularly travel with their dogs whether on local errands or extended vacations. Four out of five drivers never use any kind restraint, however.
That means pets may interfere with driving duties if they get sick or the car stops suddenly, Vetere said. Fortunately, pet product manufacturers are addressing problems caused by pet passengers.
For instance, one manufacturer sent Vetere a sample of its portable pet potty, basically a plot of grass for emergencies. After all, a pet's got to go when he's got to go, Vetere said. Drivers can pull up to a city sidewalk and tend to the call of nature.
Pet safety restraints keep animals from crawling about the cabin. Manufacturers have made their gear stylish by adding designer colors or sport logos.
Sgt. Tom Field preaches pet passenger safety for the South Windsor Police Department in Connecticut. He said he knows of too many auto accidents where pets have sustained life-threatening injuries, and he's a vocal advocate for pet restraints or screens.
"It's often tragic and preventable," Sgt. Field said. "A 50-pound dog hurled at 40 mph becomes a projectile with 2,000 pounds of force. Sometimes they are ejected from the vehicle."
Pet safety restraints hook into the vehicle's existing safety belt system. Yet, they leave enough maneuverability so a dog can stick its heads out the window, Vetere said.
Protecting eyesight has become a labor of love for Ken DiLullo at Doggles, a company specializing in pet eyewear. DiLullo said dogs with bulging eyes such as pugs are particularly vulnerable to damage. Other breeds like German shepherds and huskies have light-sensitive eyes.
"People are always calling and saying their pet lost an eye," DiLullo said. "Even the smallest objects can do a lot of damage,"
Drivers can help pets become better passengers by attending to their special needs, Vetere said. He suggested some basic necessities when traveling with your favorite species:
- Use a restraint system such as pet seat belt, screen or pet carrier. It keeps them confined to a specific area and helps prevent them from being ejected in an accident.
- Install pet seat covers or pads, which keep upholstery clean and make it more comfortable for animals to stay put.
- Invest in a set of containers with tight lids to keep food from spilling or going stale.
- Bring pet bowls for feeding and watering.
- Attach ID systems to your pet in case you get separated.
"The smart pet owner is concerned not only about the pet, but their own wellbeing when driving," Vetere said.