When travelling with pets in the passenger compartment of any vehicle it is imperative steps are taken to ensure they are restrained correctly to help ensure their safety and the safety of other occupants and road users.
Any pet left to roam unrestrained in a vehicle's interior can become an unwanted and badly timed distraction to the driver, while in an emergency braking manoeuvre or collision, they have the potential to inflict serious harm to themselves and other occupants plus cause major damage to a vehicle's interior.
Obviously the larger and heavier the unrestrained pet the greater the risk of harm and damage, but even the smallest and most passive pet has the potential to create a situation where the driver's concentration levels are momentarily broken.
But what about the other issues around animals in vehicles that can often go unnoticed and eventually cause expensive repair bills or devalue a car's worth come trade-in time?
Pet odour or excessive amounts of hair left around the interior trim are a couple of undesirables that can often creep up on owners and be overlooked for long periods.
A regular interior check and clean, plus the use of a suitable deodorant, can help overcome these issues.
Damage to seat fabric or trim caused by animals with sharp claws can also create an unwanted interior appearance. The use of some form of seat cover or mat can offer some protection and help eliminate any potential damage. Seat trim damage can not only be expensive to repair but in many cases a particular trim pattern or colour may no longer be available, creating a mismatch or patch-up repair. Not a good look when it's time to move a vehicle on.
Seatbelt webbing is potentially another easy target for animals that love to have a chew on anything within easy reach, and believe me when I say it can turn out to be extremely expensive pet tucker.
Premature seatbelt webbing damage or wear can be caused by a couple of different scenarios that can easily be avoided.
A twist in the webbing itself can restrict the belt from retracting fully when released, which often means the belt ends up left hanging loose in the door aperture and exposed to severe damage every time a door is closed against it.
If it's the driver's side then it won't take long before the webbing is damaged and, more importantly from a safety perspective, severely weakened.
Seatbelt operation and general condition is part of a vehicle's Warrant of Fitness inspection and there are virtually no grey areas or different interpretations of the rules; the belt must operate correctly and the webbing must not be frayed or damaged in any way.
If it is, then it's an instant rejection by the WoF inspector.
Where seatbelts operate in partnership with a vehicle's airbag system it can easily become an extremely expensive and unwanted repair. Costs up to and beyond $1200 to supply and fit a new seatbelt assembly for even the most basic mainstream vehicle are not unusual within the industry currently.
If you own a station wagon or SUV, then installing a barrier between the rear cargo space and the back seat can help eliminate the potential for harm, distraction and damage.
If you own a sedan then it becomes your responsibility to ensure pets are adequately secured and away from areas that can create driver distraction and reduce the risk of occupant harm and interior damage.
Though adults and children are by law required to be securely fastened in almost every vehicle on our roads, it takes a little bit of self-discipline to ensure the same applies to pets regardless of type or size.
Keep in mind that long term, it also helps protect a vehicle's value.