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  • Robert Berkelhammer, M.Ed.

12 Tips to Help Prevent Pet Injuries from Auto Accidents

Millions of dogs and cats are accidentally killed or injured by automobiles and trucks yearly. My concrete suggestions can decrease vehicle accidents when pet owners better organize the nuclear pet family home. The Family Pet Contract is a 16-page document guiding pet owners in improved home organization, to efficiently meet the needs of pets and people during everyday functioning, in times of crisis, and avoiding crisis.

1. Create Cat Window Boxes

Cat owners can create cat window boxes throughout the home with carpet remnants or soft bedding padding window sills. During warmer seasons, the cat can jump up and sit comfortably in the window area and access fresh air, sounds, and moving objects through a sturdy screen. Storm windows can be used during colder months, especially where direct sun enters. All screens and storm windows, including 2nd and 3rd floor windows need to be secured properly before cat use. A cat toy and treats in the cat window boxes are helpful for initial introduction.

2. Add Screened-In Cat Porches in Rental and Homeowner Residences

Despite many traffic accident deaths and injuries, cat owners let cats outside off leash. I suggest cat owners screen a porch with a heavy gauge screen that will deter squirrel chewing and cat chewing. Once the porch is screened, place a litter box and cat tree on the porch along with a water bowl. Cats will thrive in the fresh air, sounds, and visual stimulation. Many rental units in multi-family buildings have porches that can be cat screened. Renters can try reaching an agreement with their landlord regarding permission to screen and costs. Cat owners can combine cat doors with the screened porch, allowing autonomy and safety for the cat and cat owner!

3. Use Proper Door Exit Techniques

Leaving the home: Unlock the door and open it slightly. Turn around towards the inside of the home and bend your knees slightly, placing a briefcase, pocket book, lunch bucket, or newspaper in front of you at lower leg height. Push or pull the door open behind you and keep your hand held low as you quickly pull the door closed.

Entering the home: Repeat the process of holding in front of your lower leg your briefcase, newspaper, lunch bucket, or pocket book as you cross the threshold. This will deter most cat and dog escape artists. Keep your arm firm in case your 4 legged beast runs into you.

Try training your dog or cat to sit inside the home before you leave or enter and reward them with a treat and praise. Toss a treat in the opposite direction away from the exit door. Make it a fun game with kind encouragement. Where else can you throw food across a room in a socially acceptable way? Treats can be kept in the mailbox.

More than one person will often be exiting the home simultaneously in the nuclear pet family. Communication between family members is required. Drills can be practiced by temporarily locking the family pet in a room while family members exit together.

4. Add Screen Door/Storm Door Addition

Consider adding a storm door when you have only the main door in your rental or home owned dwelling. The second door makes it easier for the person exiting the home to slow down an escape artist dog or cat; conversely, a charging pet will have a more difficult time getting past the pet owner using their vision and quick arm coordination. I have had charging cats and dogs almost run into the storm door as I close it quickly entering a home. A second door makes it easier for children securing the escape artist pet in the home when exiting with or without parents in the nuclear pet family mix.

5. Use Proper Furniture Near the Inside Exit Door Area

Furniture near an exit door low enough to the ground prevents a pet from crawling underneath it and charging out of the home when the door opens. Furniture high enough for the family pet to crawl under needs to be removed or altered by solid heavy material pushed underneath it -- preventing access. Trays of spring water placed underneath the furniture may fulfill this need.

6. Adhere to Basic Obedience -- A Lifetime of Communication

Basic obedience for dogs can fail situationally but is very important for the overall long term shared life of communication between dog and owner. Cat owners develop their own way of communicating with their cats and can hire a cat behaviorist. Verbal commands need other strategies for off leash pet safety. Expecting off leash dogs to always obey their owner is naive and fraught with peril regarding the physics of 3,000 -4,000 pound cars. Basic obedience can begin in puppyhood and can include a Boot Camp, a behaviorist, or other specialized training for special need dogs.

7. Install Fences and Secure Gate Hardware in Yards

Fenced yards with high opaque fences of 7 feet, depending on a dog’s breed, and sturdy gate latches prevent pets running into the street. High opaque (solid) fences may prevent dogs, raccoons, skunks, and foxes entering your property. I prefer double-sided sliding double bolts on both sides of the gate. Sliding bolts are easier for children and the elderly to coordinate and have no wires that can fail. Pet owners can talk with landscapers, mail deliverers, and other people who use gates about securing them. Pet owners can communicate to those people in charge of their pets when they travel or leave the home about schedules of landscapers or expected packages being delivered.

A dog owner may have a yard with a gate on a busy foot-traffic area near a school or commercial area. Many children walk past these yards and sometimes a ball is accidentally thrown in the yard. A lock can be placed on these secondary gates rarely used by the dog owner to protect the dogs safety from an opened gate.

8. Employ Harnesses

Harnesses of good design offer more security for your dog. Harnesses and leashes should be secured to your dog inside the home before the door is opened. I suggest 2 different harness companies: Soft Touch Concepts who manufacture harnesses called “Sensible” and “Sensation”, and Easy Walk harnesses. Overactive puppies may need their leash attached to both their harness and collar to prevent them slipping out of the harness. Harnesses should never hang low in front of a dog’s shoulder and chest area where legs and jaws can become entangled. Leashes should be attached to the dog’s chest harness ring for more walker control of the dog, not attached to the harness ring on the dog’s back except for small easy to walk dogs.

9. Develop Protocol Guest Visits and Doorbell Responses

Pet families can develop a protocol for responding to doorbells and guest visits and write it down in the Family Pet Contract. Too many dogs and cats are running off leash out of the home when the front door is opened. Inform your guests or delivery professionals ahead of time or by opening the door a crack and asking them to wait for you to open the door after securing the dog or cat. A sign on the door stating “Pet on Property” sends a message to visitors.

10. Install Door Image Technology

Door technology is available that gives the home-owner or tenant a visual picture of the person ringing a doorbell and ability to verbally communicate with them. This safety technology can ferret out criminals and decrease unnecessary door openings for unwanted solicitation.

11. Prevent Owner Substance Abuse

Substance abuse hinders pet safety. A confused and unfocused adult or teenager makes pets more susceptible to traffic accidents. There is no shortage of help that exists for people abusing substances. You are not alone and your life has tremendous value. Choose to love yourself, your family, and your pets enough to get help! Help is just a phone call away!

12. Teach Children Proper Dog Walking Posture

One chapter in my book, Pet Care Givers & Families: Getting the Most from Dog Playgroups, Walkers, and Pet Sitters, instructs parents on proper dog walking posture for their children. Children can learn to reduce the incidents of falling or leashes slipping off their hands and dogs becoming at risk to vehicle accidents. My book instructs dog walkers how to coordinate better posture of shoulders, the back, feet, and legs.

By working together with your family and other pet care givers, learning new techniques, and altering your home for optimum pet care, we can all help to reduce the number of injuries and deaths for our pets that are caused by auto accidents. To learn more helpful techniques and preventative tips, read Pet Care Givers & Families: Getting the Most from Dog Playgroups, Walkers, and Pet Sitters and download our Pet Care Contract. Let's all work together to make life safer for our pets!

Please consider helping me continue my important work helping pets as I develop as pet care professional and expert. All Donors will receive a free copy of the 16-page Family Pet Contract! Learn more here:

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