Safety first while traveling with your pets

(RNN) - Pets provide comfort and companionship to those who care for them, but traveling with one is often added stress to an already stressful process, especially during the Holiday season.

With many families planning to travel on or around Thanksgiving, being prepared ahead of time is crucial.

Once you determine if holiday travel is something your pet will enjoy, it is time to consider safety.

Since the majority of people travel with pets by car, it is important to prepare before hitting the road.

Pet expert for America Now, Luciano Aguilar, suggests pets should be secured in a crate, a specially designed harness, or seat belt behind the front seats.

He said proper restraint avoids any interference with the driver and prevents distractions.

"A split second distraction can be disastrous," Aguilar said. "One of my biggest pet peeves is a loose dog jumping around the car while I'm driving. I hear it from dog owners all the time."

He suggests treating your pets as you would a human baby or family member.

"You never know what can happen, so it's best to be prepared," Aguilar said. "You'd never let your child roam around your car while driving, so make sure the four-legged member of your family is just as safe. Cuddling and jumping can come later once you've arrived safely at your destination."

Many states are now encouraging drivers to restrain dogs when traveling by car.

Arizona, Connecticut, Maine and New Jersey are issuing $250 to $1,000 fines for drivers who are caught with their dogs in their lap. But New Jersey is the first state to have issued a bill that would require pets to be secured in some sort of restraint.

Many other states are in the process of pushing through legislation, comparing driving with a dog in your lap to texting while driving or driving under the influence.

Traveling by air has its own set of challenges, so bringing a dog into the mix can get complicated.

The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that more than 2 million pets and other animals are transported by air each year.

Preparation is key when planning to bring a dog onboard. Airlines vary in policies on transporting pets.

For example, bulldog breeds and pit bull types aren't allowed in cargo on some airlines. Others have weight restrictions.

Aguilar said to make sure your pets fly with an identification tag on their collar and a labeled carrier which includes flight information and emergency contact numbers.

Fees also vary from airline to airline depending on whether your pets ride as a carry on or in cargo.

Heat exhaustion is one concern when going the cargo route with changing temperatures and air pressure.

Also, traveling during busy holidays can cause stress to an animal you're bringing onboard making for an uncomfortable ride for your pets.

"Nobody likes a crying baby on a plane, but it's kind of expected," Aguilar said. "A barking or whining dog is not. Be prepared to get some dirty looks or complaints from other passengers if you can't control your dog."

Getting a pet onboard a plane takes a lot of planning, so make sure it's the right choice for you and your family.

"Like parents of small children, you have to decide if flying with your dog is something you really want to do," Aguilar said. "Consider the added expense, effort and anxiety it can cause and decide what's best for you and for the pet."

Check for individual airline safety rules involving pets.

Finally, since the holidays are hectic for everyone, schedule some sanity time to do things that both you and your pet will enjoy.

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