Pet owners, when it’s necessary to travel with your pet, be sure to take note of these tips on how to protect your pet in the car.

1. Restrain your dog. If the family pet is a pooch, make sure to properly secure Fido in the vehicle. Unrestrained pets are not only a distraction, but they can also get injured if you stop suddenly. Use a crate or a harness to keep your dog safe. These work well for small to medium-sized dogs. If you have a larger dog and drive an SUV, the rear can be blocked off to safely accommodate your pet.

2. Buy a pet-friendly vehicle. If you’re in the market to buy a vehicle and you own a pet that will be traveling with you on occasion (or frequently), consider buying a vehicle that’s more pet-friendly. The Honda Element, which is discontinued after 2011 model year, offered a “dog-friendly” package. Other vehicles can be equipped or ordered with cushioned pet beds, restraint systems and other dog-friendly items. Some good pet-friendly choices include the 2011 Toyota Venza, as well as the 2011 Volvo XC60, 2011 BMW 3-Series, 2011 Subaru Forester, and the 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe.

3. Purchase pet insurance. Suppose something happens and you get into an accident. While you have car insurance and coverage for your medical needs and those of your passengers and occupants of other vehicles, what about your pet? Progressive Insurance and Chubb Insurance are two companies offering good pet insurance policies that are reasonably priced.

4. Don’t allow pets on your lap. While you’re driving, you need to have your concentration on the road – not on your pet sitting in your lap. You can’t possibly respond to emergencies when you’re distracted this way, and it’s a danger to you, your pet and other drivers to allow your pet to remain in your lap. Hawaii bans the practice and Oregon is looking at doing so. One Detroit suburb, Troy, passed a law banning pets in laps in January 2011. Other cities and states may follow. Curb this practice now. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

5. Don’t let dogs ride with heads out the window. How many times have you seen a dog with his or her head out the window, tongue hanging out? It may seem cute, but it’s actually a dangerous practice. Your dog’s eyes can be insured by debris flying through the air. Don’t allow this practice. It’s not worth the risk.

6. Accustom your pet to the car. If your pet has never traveled in the car with you, don’t just place the animal in the vehicle and set off. Take a little time to get your pet accustomed to the car a few days before. And, if the only time your pet goes in the car is to the vet, guess what? Your pet will associate the vehicle with some bad memories. How about taking Fido to the park in a short car trip, or sit in the car and play with your dog (or cat) several times prior to taking your pet on a trip.

7. Make sure your pet has proper ID tags. You’d be lost without your pet, and what would you do if Fido or Fluffy gets loose while you’re traveling. Take the worry out of such an eventuality (well, at least you’ll feel a little more secure) by making sure your pet has the proper identification tags on his or her collar. Include an emergency contact number so anyone finding your pet can get in touch with you.

8. Bring a “doggie bag.” Just like small children, pets – dogs and cats, anyway – like to be entertained. Bring along a bag with toys to keep them busy, as well as food and water bowls, clean-up supplies, maybe even a first-aid kit. It pays to be prepared.

In the end, how to protect your pet in the car is very much up to you. Be proactive and keep your pet safe.

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