We know to buckle up when getting into a vehicle, but what about our four-legged friends? The Alberta RCMP and Alberta SPCA remind motorists that properly restraining pets while driving is important for both their safety and yours.
Improperly restrained animals can compromise the safe operation of a motor vehicle. If a pet-passenger is forcing a motorist to take their eyes off the road or hands off the wheel, they are a distraction to the driver and can warrant a fine. Earlier this summer, an Alberta RCMP Traffic member observed a vehicle stopped at a red light with a dog leaning out the driver-side window. When the light turned green, the driver used one hand to hold the dog and the other hand to steer while driving down the road at 60km/h in heavy traffic. Officers initiated a traffic stop and ensured the dog was properly secured in the vehicle. The driver was issued a $243 ticket for allowing an animal to impede the safe operation of a motor vehicle under Section 115(2)(i) of the Traffic Safety Act.
“All vehicle passengers, including animals, should be properly restrained,” Supt. Gary Graham, Alberta RCMP Traffic Services said. “This ensures the safety of pets, their owners, and other road users. It is the responsibility of motorists to practice smart driving behaviours that minimize risk to themselves and their animals.”
Not only can unrestrained animals be costly, but they can also be dangerous. In the event of motor vehicle collision, a pet can be thrown about a vehicle or ejected, causing serious harm to the animal as well as passengers. To maintain traffic safety for road users and their pets, the Alberta RCMP and Alberta SPCA recommend the following tips:
- Animals should be transported in a kennel or carrier placed in the back seat or cargo space of a vehicle. Ensure the kennel or carrier is secure so as not to move during travel (Edmonton Humane Society, 2021).
- Pets can be restrained using a harness fastened to a seat buckle in the back seat of a vehicle (Edmonton Humane Society, 2021). If an animal is secured in the bed of a truck, the harness should have a short enough tether to keep them away from the sides of the vehicle and eliminate the possibility of them jumping or falling out. (Alberta SPCA, 2021).
- Do not secure an animal by the neck or collar to a seatbelt (Edmonton Humane Society, 2021).
- Do not allow your pet to stick their head or legs outside of a vehicle window. Debris, wind, and sudden stops can all cause serious injury (Edmonton Humane Society, 2021).
In addition to properly restraining animals, owners are reminded that pets should not be left alone in a vehicle, especially during hot summer months. As we experienced record temperatures across the province during the recent heat wave, it is important that pet owners understand the dangers of leaving their animals unattended, even in a running vehicle.
“Pets are a part of the family and they need to be safe in a vehicle just like any other passenger,” Peace Officer Stuart Dodds, Provincial Supervisor, Alberta SPCA said. “When planning a trip this summer, think about your pet’s needs and safety, and when making rest stops, ensure it’s in a safe location for your pets, away from busy traffic.”
For more safety information on the travel or transportation of animals, please visit albertaspca.org.