Car Care

A guide to travelling with pets

For most pet owners, dogs and cats are considered part of the family, and so they often accompany owners on weekends away. No matter how long the journey is, it’s important to always have pets secured safely inside your vehicle for the safety of both you and your pet, as well as for other road users.

While there are no specific requirements for leash lengths or cages, the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) has guidelines for carrying animals. It says ‘a driver mustn’t operate a vehicle in a condition that could cause: injury to a person or animal, annoyance to any person, damage to any property, or distraction to the driver.’

As part the AA’s Get Road Trip Ready campaign, here are some ways to help keep your furry friends safe on your next outing.

Dealing with dogs

One of the best ways to restrain your dog in a vehicle is to purchase a seatbelt harness for the back seat. It fits across the dog’s shoulders and the belt slips between the dog and the harness itself. It’s also good when opening the car door because the dog won’t jump out into oncoming traffic.

Dogs distracting drivers is the most common cause of road accidents involving pets; it was the cause of seven crashes causing injury last year, according to the NZ Ministry of Transport. Creepy crawlies like bees and spiders are also occasionally noted in car accident reports.

Another way to restrain dogs, particularly in station wagons, is installing a cargo barrier to form a contained area in the back. We recommend common sense be used when securing a dog on the back of a Ute or flat deck truck. Animals should be secured with a short leash to prevent them falling off the deck.

While dogs are considered ‘a man’s best friend’, it can be a different story on the road. A study by Volvo shows that in a collision at 67km/h, a 27kg pet has the crash force of 2000-4000kg. Airbags are not a substitute for seatbelts and for an unbuckled pet in the front seat; airbags can kill or cause serious injury. Whether it’s a trip to the vet, park or a holiday destination, it’s imperative to be fully prepared for the journey and take precautions to keep both yourself and your furry friend safe.  

Also, it is not advisable to drive with your dog’s head out the window, as much as this seems to be a popular thing to do, and dogs appear to look like they love it. It can pose a distraction to passing motorists, and could be dangerous if a vehicle or object happens to pass by too close.

Dealing with cats

Cats generally don’t like travelling, and so a cage is recommended if they do accompany you on your trip. A good airflow and a waterproof bottom to the cage can help make any mess easier to clean up. There have been some advancements in cat cages over the past few years, ranging from cleverly designed pet backpacks to the more traditional carrier cage. It’s also important to ensure the cage or backpack is secure at all times and out of direct sunlight.

If you are travelling with pets, a little planning beforehand will go a long way to ensure a successful and safe trip:

Containment - Try and keep your pets to one particular area of the vehicle, this ensures that any hair or mess is localised in one easy to clean spot.

Cover up - Invest in a pet friendly seat cover, this allows you to remove and clean the cover when messy, and also quickly transforms the seats back to normal to allow for any non-furry passengers.

Clean-up straight away - Once you have ended your journey, take out any pet affected mats or covers and give the car a vacuum to get rid of loose fur. You may even need to deodorise the interior or any mess spots. You can also try a sprinkling of baking soda, and let sit for the night before vacuuming up the next day to help extinguish those unwanted smells. AA Shop stocks a range of Little Joe air fresheners, perfect for unwanted smells, from $11.99 each. Visit to view the full range of options.

Travel with a pet emergency kit - Include items like paper towels, wet wipes, carpet cleaner and plastic bags. It may be necessary to carry food and water, but like humans, pets can suffer from motion sickness so it may pay to not feed them until you reach your destination. Pheromone spray can also help to calm both cats and dogs ahead of a journey. It’s always good to be prepared.

Make sure they’re healthy

Before you go, it’s a good idea to check with your vet to make sure your pet’s vaccinations are all up to date and that they don’t have any other health problems that need taking care of. It will give you some peace of mind and allow you to have fun without worrying on your trip. AA Pet Insurance can help with cover for your furry friends. Find out more at

How the AA can help with your Road Trip

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