dog in middle of road in new zealand

How to Achieve Pet Safety on NZ Roads


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In 2018, over 4,000 people were hospitalised due to road traffic injuries in New Zealand. And across the pond in Australia, over 10 million animals are hit by cars on an annual basis. Improved knowledge and practice of both human and pet road safety brings fewer collisions, injuries, and fatalities for people and pets alike.

Many of our pet insurance claims stem from a lack of pet road safety when companion animals are out and about. And unfortunately, these kinds of claims can quickly escalate into tens of thousands of dollars. That’s just for treatment of the pet itself – it doesn’t cover the damage that can be caused to passengers, pedestrians, and even the cars themselves.

Teaching kids about road safety is par for the course when it comes to saving lives of both pedestrians and drivers. While we can’t tell animals to look left and right before they cross the road, practicing with them the steps to positive road safety is key to saving lives too.  

As animal lovers, it’s important to find ways to proactively protect pets against harm. While a contingency plan can give you peace of mind, prevention is always better than cure when it comes to safety.

To get you started on a pet safe strategy, watch this vlog from Dr Cath:

Pet safety on the road

With this guide to pet road safety, we’ll look at the best ways to avoid your animals getting hit on the road. This includes whether they’re travelling in cars as passengers or whether your pet finds their way onto a road on foot. You can read our article on what to do if you hit an animal while driving in NZ if you’re looking for help as a driver rather than pet owner

Although it’s tragic to think about, people often lose their pets if they are involved in an accident. If pets do have a lucky escape, they might be left with permanent trauma, both physical and emotional.  

There are a few preventative measures you can take to keep your pet as safe as possible in cars and near roads.

In this pet road safety guide, we cover the following:

pet owner wonders 'how to stop your dog pulling on the lead?'

Dog road safety training

Focusing on proper dog road safety training is the best way to protect them. Dogs are faster and often stronger than we are, so trying to grab them or outrun them if something goes wrong isn’t usually effective.

But well-trained dogs are quite reliable and tend to stick to their routine and fall back on their training in unexpected circumstances. That’s why we can rely on them even for police work and assisting people living with disability.

Teaching your dog good pet road safety could prevent them from being involved in an accident. You might not be able to control what drivers or pedestrians do on the road, but knowing your dog won’t panic and bolt onto the road can help ease the stress if something happens.

Creating boundaries around roads and streets

Though we can’t have a discussion with our dogs and cats around animals on the road and pet safety, we can help them understand what to do. The best way to work with them is through positive reinforcement obedience training.

The basic concept is that you ignore actions or behaviour you don’t want, then immediately reward your pet when they act the way you want them to

Teaching your dog or cat that roads are boundaries which shouldn’t be crossed without your go-ahead is the goal. Here’s how:

  1. Find a quiet street
  2. Using a long lead, walk in small circles on and off the road
  3. When your pet follows you into the road, ignore them and go back to the curb
  4. Whenever your pet stays on the curb and doesn’t venture into the road, reward them with treats and verbal praise

This video shows how quickly you can make your pet road-wary using this technique:

Keeping them on the lead

The law says as a pet owner, you’re responsible for their actions – not them (read about third party liability pet insurance to find out why). So as a responsible pet parent, always have a good and practical lead with you. If your dog or cat is on a leash and/or harness that’s securely fastened, you have an extra layer of protection in place.

Keeping your dog or cat on a lead isn’t the only step you should take. They might bolt off and escape, they could get out of the gate/fencing unexpectedly, or they could even pull you over or injure your hand and arm. We hope nothing like this will happen, but it’s good reason to make sure your pet is road-savvy.

Dogs and cats should only be off-leash when you’re totally confident they can’t escape, when you know they will come back when called, and/or when you’re 100% sure they’ll avoid the roads. Due to proper training, obviously. Don’t rely on your dog or cat being too scared to approach the roads.

Securing your property

Everybody has seen posts on their local community group asking neighbours to keep an eye out for a lost dog or cat. And sometimes, accidents happen. As a pet owner, your responsibility is to do your absolute best to prevent them escaping.

One of the most crucial parts of avoiding animals being hit on the roads is limiting their access to roads. A lot of strategies to pet proof your home pertain to pet safety in general, not just pet road safety – but it’s even more important if you live near a busy road or somewhere with fast-moving traffic.

For instance, make sure your fencing or perimeter wall is high enough and has no gaps. Check your pet can’t squeeze through the gate. Close windows if you have a Houdini in the house. Make sure you don’t let your pet slip out of the front door when you open it to leave the house.

Being responsible and vigilant always goes a long way towards keeping animals safe on roads.

This pet parent is training a cat to walk on a lead.

Hi vis gear for pets

When we drive, we’re normally watching the road for cars rather than other hazards. This is beneficial for other drivers and car passengers, but means we aren’t always paying full attention to pedestrians, cyclists and pets.

Luckily, technology has advanced a lot over the years. Things like lane detection and automatic braking contribute to improved safety on the roads.

Even so, pets are still knocked over by cars every single day. Becoming distracted while driving contributes to this, but so does improper pet training. Depending on the time of day, there are sometimes also instances in which drivers don’t see an animal on the road.

Is it a good idea?

Is hi vis dog and cat clothing a solution to this?

It’s true that anything which improves visibility can be helpful when it comes to pet road safety. Reflective jackets, collars, and leashes can help drivers to see animals on the road earlier on.

However, this can also mean drivers are more likely to brake suddenly or swerve violently.  

Added to that, not all pets like wearing clothes. Some cats and dogs simply find them restrictive. Yours might hate wearing their winter coat, for instance, even if it’s cold. Further, extra clothes and jackets can make it hard for pets to regulate their body temperature, especially on hot days.

But that doesn’t mean hi vis is a bad idea. A good compromise is to opt for a reflective leash, harness, and/or collar. That way, your pet can remain unrestricted and drivers are still more likely to see them if they do venture towards a road. Read our guide to choosing dog leashes and leads and one for cat owners about choosing cat collars.

you have to crate train a puppy if you want to fly with them. This border collie is relaxed in his crate waiting to travel

Pet safety when in cars

It isn’t just pets running across the road on foot which can be dangerous. Pets travelling in cars pose plenty of threats to safety.

If your unrestrained cat or dog jumps over the seat in excitement, for example, you could swerve or crash. Then there’s the idea of your dog or cat leaping out of the boot on a road trip or holiday and escaping in an unfamiliar place.

Plus of course, the usual safety risks apply. The same ones that apply to human kids, we mean. Making sure your animals are properly secured if you have a bumper bashing is one consideration. Never leaving pets in hot cars is another.

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to ensure your car is pet-proofed and safe for furkids to travel in. We have tons of advice on how to improve pet road safety in cars. Read about this in depth by clicking on any or all of the articles below:

On top of that, you can better equip yourself to protect animals as a driver. Make sure you always focus on the road, don’t drive when you’re tired, and take a defensive driving course.

Pet insurance

We believe taking precautionary steps to improve pet road safety is key to saving the lives of animals. Just as having reliable and affordable dog insurance or cat insurance goes a long way towards additional peace of mind.

That way, if the worst does happen and a pet shoots out onto the road in a blind panic or you roll your car with them in it you can get your dog or cat the medical attention they need.  Get a quick free quote now.

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