Pets in the car

Pets in the car

Pets are part of the family, so of course they can come along on vacation or accompany their owners during weekend trips. They are also occasionally passengers in everyday life, for example, on the way to the veterinarian or dog obedience school. None of this is problematic, as long as owners take proper precautions.

Dogs and cats generally accompany their owners most often during car rides. In order to avoid stress for people or pets, you need to consider how to accommodate your four-legged friends in the car and how to plan your trips. In addition to a good atmosphere, safety and legal regulations are the most important.

Pets count as "cargo"

Pets are no longer considered things from a legal perspective. Because traffic laws do not stipulate any special regulations for pets taken along in automobiles, they are still legally considered cargo. According to the regulation, cargo "must be placed so that it does not endanger or bother anyone and cannot fall down." This makes it clear that pets must not cause significant disruptions or hinder the person steering the vehicle. Every pet owner can decide for themselves how they want to implement this directive within the scope of the animal protection act.

Carrier or belt?

Your dog doesn't always need to sit in a carrier in your trunk. Specialty stores also offer safety belts and dog seats for back seats. That is why it is a good idea to get advice that takes the individual temperament of the animal into account. In contrast to dogs, cats tend to move around cars during trips. This can significantly disturb drivers and is dangerous in traffic, and it can also be fined by the police. That is why Garfield or Mimi is safest in a cat carrier that you can easily fit in the foot well between your front and back seats. This is also a good and safe place to position cages for small animals and birds. 
Give your animal passengers a chance to get used to their carrier before the trip. Doing so reduces the danger of pets, and cats in particular, panicking as soon as you take out their carrier, which can certainly delay your departure. People who know that their dog or cat gets stressed by car trips could discuss tranquilizers with their veterinarian.

When dogs become projectiles

Strange though it may sound, pets traveling along can be extremely dangerous for passengers. If a car crashes into an obstacle at a speed of 50 km/h, a 20 kg dog that is not secured flies like a projectile through the interior of the vehicle with a force exceeding a half ton. You don't need a great imagination to envision the effects this can have on passengers. That is why it is very important to situate animals safely. A separation grid or net between the loading zone and the passenger area reduces the risk of "flying dogs". You should also observe these safety measures during short trips.

An animal is also "only human"

Every 1 to 1.5 hours, it is a good idea to make a stop so pets can move, relieve themselves, and eat and drink something. Animal food, water, and a food bowl should be part of your travel luggage. And of course you need enough treats so you can calm and reward your dog or cat. Drive defensively to avoid abrupt breaking and acceleration maneuvers that stress your pet even more. If your animal still behaves unusually, however, you should stop immediately and find out why.

Leaving animals in the car – a "hot" topic

A quite literally hot topic is leaving animals in the car. It may be pleasant or mild outside, but car temperatures can nevertheless increase rapidly and considerably when the sun shines. Even a slightly opened side window provides only limited relief. Heat in cars proves to be fatal for animals time and again. They can suffer a lethal heatstroke within even a matter of minutes. Not only is that painful for the pet owner personally, it could lead to legal consequences for them. This is because pets are also covered by the animal protection act when they are on the move.
While we are on the subject of protection: You can sign up for a passenger accident insurance policy as an additional module for your motor vehicle insurance. Zurich's policy also pays for the cost of medical treatment for your pet resulting from a traffic accident, for example.

Other countries, other laws

If you travel abroad with your pet, you should find out early which regulations apply in the country in question. For instance, some dog breeds are not allowed to enter Denmark. In any case, you should bring along a vaccination card for every animal accompanying you and clarify whether your pet needs to be vaccinated against only rabies or against other diseases as well.
Whether you are just going to the grocery store or taking a vacation abroad, ask yourself every time whether the trip is also appropriate for your pet. Some four-legged friends are real globetrotters, but some would spend the time much more relaxed with a nice neighbor, with a kind cat-sitter, or if need be in a good pet boarding facility. That will take care of all your worries on the road, and it might even be an exciting change of pace for your dog or cat.

Traveling well and safely with pets

  • Securely place your animal passenger in your car. Take advantage of the variety of securing systems like animal carriers, safety belts, dog seats, and separating systems.
  • If you travel across country borders, you need to take your pet's vaccination card along.
  • Inform yourself about entry and transportation requirements in your countries of travel and passage.
  • Take frequent breaks during your journey so your dog can move about and relieve itself.
  • Give your pet its favorite treat now and then to reward it during longer trips.
  • Bring your pet's favorite blanket and toy along, because familiarity reduces stress.
  • Drive prudently – if you drive calmly, that also limits the stress level for your pet.
  • Never leave your pet in the car if the sun is shining.
  • Even for short distances, find a safe place for your animal in the vehicle.
  • Bear in mind that in the event of an accident, your insurance benefits may be reduced due to gross negligence if animals are not properly secured.