PET FRIENDLY: Keeping Pets Safe from Auto Accidents

| March 18, 2014 | 0 Comments | Pet Friendly

As a professional pet sitter and dog walker, I’m particularly alert to pet safety issues and inclined to be proactive in ensuring pet safety. And as an active user of our HOA Residents’ Group Facebook page I’ve noticed that nearly every week someone reports on a lost pet they’ve seen wandering nearby or asks for others’ help to find their own pet. For this edition of Pet Friendly I’d like to offer some tips to help you protect your pet from automobile and other escape-related accidents.

Some pets are notorious “flight risks” looking for any opportunity to escape from their home. Young children, visitors to your home and sometimes even normally careful adult pet owners are responsible for these dog and cat escapes. Having grown up with a male Boxer who amazingly jumped 4-foot fences on a regular basis, I understand that “human error” is not always the cause of the escape. He was on a first-name basis with the local animal control authorities.

As more of us rescue and adopt pets or welcome a larger number of pets into our homes, the risks of pet escapes may in fact be rising. While most of us feel we know our pets and believe they would not foolishly run out into the street and get hit by a car, the sad truth is that a very large number of beloved companion pets are injured or killed by vehicles each year.

Animal People Newspaper reports that more than one million dogs are hit by cars each year in the United States alone! My runaway Boxer was one such pet back in the mid-1960s. He was lucky – he survived the accident – but paid for his escape with the loss of one of his front legs.

So what can we do to better anticipate and prevent pet escapes from our homes and yards? And what can we do to reduce accidents at night since many of us are walking our dogs then given long work commutes and business family evening schedules?

First, we all need to adjust our own habits when entering or leaving our homes. Often, we are juggling groceries, mail, or fumbling with keys as we come and go and our attention is diverted.  A cat or dog, who really enjoys the outdoor life or has a history of trying to escape, needs your full attention. As a professional pet sitter I assume that all pets are potential flight risks and always enter and leave clients’ homes with that thought in mind.

If you have children, train them and remind them frequently of the importance of opening and closing doors to your home slowly using their legs and body to effectively block the path of a family pet who might want to scoot outside suddenly. Demonstrate the technique to them and encourage them to train any friends who regularly visit. Smaller dogs and cats who are occasionally allowed outside are often the most expert escape artists. Recognize that the “call of the wild” is very hard to resist and be prepared!

Some dogs, particularly those who like to dig in your fenced yard, are also at risk. So check your fence-line often, even in the winter, and repair any gaps or broken down areas promptly. It is amazing how some dogs can escape through small gaps in fences or a shallow dug-out space underneath a fence.

If you frequently have your pet riding in your vehicle, it’s best to restrain them, but in either case be careful about opening your car or truck windows all the way. You can allow enough space for your dog to sniff the air without creating a risk of a pet jumping or being thrown out a window if you hit an unexpected bump in the road. You can buy a dog seat belt restraint at most pet stores.  They can reduce the severity of serious injury to your dog and also improve your own safety as the driver in a collision.

Last but not least, keep your dog on a leash or check up on them if you have an invisible fence, since those are far from infallible. For those of you who are nighttime dog walkers, it’s important that you take steps to make both yourself and your pet more visible in the dark. There are a number of new miniature lighting products you can attach to your pet’s collar so they are visible at night. And wear reflectors on your shirt or jacket sleeves or a reflective vest as you would when jogging in the early morning or at night.

Chris Bates is the founder of Top Choice Pet Care LLC (, which provides affordable, loving and reliable dog walking, pet sitting and other pet services to the Bristow, Gainesville, Haymarket, Manassas and Nokesville communities.  A farmer’s son, life-long animal lover and pet owner, Chris is a Certified Professional Pet Sitter (CPPS) through Pet Sitters International and is PetSaver™ trained in pet first aid and CPR.

© 2014, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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