Boat Safely with Pets this Memorial Day Weekend

Coast Guard rescues dog

HONOLULU – The Coast Guard rescued a dog who was found swimming by itself in the middle of Honolulu Harbor, Aug. 24, 2013. The dog was rescued by crewmembers at Coast Guard Station Honolulu and taken back to the station. U.S. Coast Guard photo.


TAMPA, Fla. – As part of National Safe Boating Week, veterinarians from BluePearl Veterinary Partners are asking people to take certain precautions to ensure they’re boating safely with their furry friends this Memorial Day weekend and in the future.

“Pets are members of our families and we are eager to bring them wherever we go and that includes boating,” said Dr. Jennifer Welser, chief medical officer of BluePearl Veterinary Partners. “Whether boating on a lake, ocean or river, we hope families will make sure to take both their own personal safety as well as the safety of their furry friends into consideration.”

While pet-related boating injuries and fatalities are not currently tracked, in 2013 the Coast Guard counted 4,062 accidents that involved 560 human deaths, 2,620 human injuries, and approximately $39 million dollars of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents.

Federal law requires recreational boaters to have a sound-producing device like a bell or air horn, flares, fire extinguisher, enough life jackets for every person on-board and a throwable flotation device. The Coast Guard also recommends for people to have a VHF-FM marine radio, an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB), a dewatering device and a first aid kit.

In addition to those general safety requirements and suggestions, veterinarians from BluePearl Veterinary Partners recommend these basic precautions when boating with pets:

  • Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are life-threatening to both people and pets. Make sure everyone, including your pets, has access to a shaded area on the vessel to get out of the sun so they do not overheat.
  • Pets need access to ample fresh drinking water when on a boat to keep their body temperature in the normal range.
  • Give your pets a break by pulling them into your lap or giving them a secure spot to lie down. Being on board can be tiring, especially for older pets, due to the movement of the boat. Your pet may become fatigued and, therefore, susceptible to injury due to the constant movement and balancing they have to do.
  • If your pet has trouble swimming, consider purchasing a life jacket or other pet-safe floatation device.
  • If your pet is going to go swimming, ensure there is an easy access point for him or her to get on and off the boat to prevent fatigue or injuries. And always stay close to your pet while in the water.
  • Make sure engines are not engaged while people or pets are in the water.

Coast Guard rescues 'Sassy' boaters

SANTA BARBARA ISLAND, Calif. – The Coast Guard Cutter Narwhal rescued two people and two dogs from the motor vessel Sassy Oct. 4, 2008. Air Station Los Angeles located the boat and was able to help the cutter find the Sassy, making it possible for the crewmembers from the cutter to rescue all aboard. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

“Most importantly, we want to make sure people and their pets celebrate this weekend and every day on the water safely,” said Welser. “Lastly, if there is a pet emergency, please seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.”

About BluePearl Veterinary Partners
BluePearl Veterinary Partners employs more than 1,700 people including more than 450 veterinarians. BluePearl hospitals offer referral-only, specialty care services and most offer 24-hour emergency care. BluePearl does not provide primary care. The company is one of the world’s principal providers of approved veterinary residency and internship programs. BluePearl also participates in clinical trials that investigate the effectiveness of new veterinary drugs and treatments, providing pet families access to cutting-edge medicine that is not yet commercially available. BluePearl is headquartered in Tampa, Fla.