By Samuel Smith
Published: Tuesday, January 19, 2021
Updated: January 20, 2021 at 5:16 pm
One minute, your fur baby is sleeping soundly. The next, they’re making a manic tongue-out, wild-eyed sprint to the car. A simple jingle of your keys is all it takes.
Amidst all the unbridled excitement and endless squirming, it can be easy to forget to properly restrain your pet before beginning your car trip.
But failing to do so can have serious consequences, not just for you and your precious cargo, but for other road users as well.
SAPOL figures show that 798 drivers have been caught with a pet on their lap during the past 6 years.
Of these drivers, 274 were fined a total of $65,192 and the remaining 524 received a caution.
The fine for driving with a pet on your lap? $197 plus a $90 Victims of Crime Levy. Imagine all the pet treats that could buy.
Penalties aside, driving with an unrestrained pet in your vehicle can be extremely dangerous says RAA Senior Manager of Safety and Infrastructure, Charles Mountain.
“It’s very easy to be knocked by an unrestrained dog or cat while driving, which could result in a crash with potentially catastrophic consequences,” he says.
“If you have to suddenly brake, your unrestrained pet could be thrown around the vehicle.
“This could result in serious injury or death to your pet, your passengers, or you as the driver,” he adds.
So, you may ask, how do you keep your pet safe in the car? Here are 3 simple tips.
1. Use a safety harness for your pet, which will work in conjunction with your car’s seatbelts. Pet safety harnesses can be purchased from reputable pet stores, department or hardware stores. Make sure to follow the individual harness’ instructions carefully.
2. For small dogs and cats, you can use a pet crate, which should also be secured to your vehicle.
3. If you have a station wagon or 4WD, you can transport your pets in the rear of the vehicle, provided it’s sectioned off with a cargo barrier. We also recommend you use a restraint.
A plea to pet owners in hot weather
No one deserves to be left in a boiling car.
Yet, alarmingly, latest RAA figures show the number of children and pets freed by RAA patrols from locked cars during summer has spiked almost 60% in the past 5 years.
Leaving passengers – human and non-human – in the car can be life-threatening during our sweltering summer months.
“Children and pets are particularly vulnerable to heat stroke and dehydration if they’re left in a parked car, even if it’s just for a short period,’’ says Mr Mountain.
“Even on milder days, the inside temperature rises rapidly once your air con stops and the sun penetrates the glass.
“Winding down the windows or parking in the shade doesn’t make that much difference either.”
If you lock your pet or child in a hot car, RAA will prioritise helping you, whether you’re a member or not.
“We’ll ask the caller if emergency services are required and transfer them after their details are taken,” says Mr Mountain.
“Our patrols will drop everything to attend a child or animal locked in car.’’