48% of UK dog owners could be breaking the Highway Code by not restraining their dogs properly in the car, reveals the Dogs Trust.
Driving with your pet is sometimes a necessity, whether it’s a short trip to the vet or a longer trip for a weekend away. Many people don’t know the safest way to travel with their dogs though and some are unknowingly breaking the law.
Rule 57 of the Highway Code states: “When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly.
A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.”
Failure to comply with this can result in a maximum fine of £2,500 and nine penalty points and if an unrestrained pet has caused an accident, insurers are unlikely to pay out.
If you’re unsure of the best ways to keep them safe when travelling, read our guide below to learn the basics.
The Highway Code states a seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are the appropriate ways of restraining animals in cars.
It is generally considered to be safer for the dog and less distracting for the driver if your dog is transported in the back of the car as opposed to the front seat.
Depending on the size of your car and size and temperament of your pooch, there are a few different options available to best restrain your dog.
Dog guards are fitted to your car between the back of the seats and the boot area, to provide a restricted space for your dog to be contained within. This option is great for dogs that prefer to have space to roam or look around, but provides limited protection from impact with the side or rear windows. Your vehicle manufacturer or alternative provider will be able to supply steel animal guards, which divide the boot area from the cabin to keep your pet safe while travelling.
Another option is to make your pets comfortable in a cage. If your dog is happy to sit quietly in a crate or cage, and provided you have enough room for a cage to house your particular dog’s size, then this is a secure option for safely restraining your dog in the car. The crate should be large enough to house your dog comfortably and allow them to sit up and stretch, but not so large that the dog would be thrown around in the case of an accident.
Small dogs are often held by passengers, but it is in fact still essential to use a harness. This prevents dogs escaping into other areas of the car, causing a distraction for the driver. Available in all shapes and sizes, the harness fits around the dog’s chest and attaches to the seatbelt on the back seat – keeping your pooch safe if you were to brake heavily or be involved in an accident. Contact your local Jardine Motors dealership to find out more about the harnesses that your car’s brand offers, we will be happy to help.
It’s really important that you take regular stops for hydration as well as comfort breaks. Pack a large bottle of water and a bowl and take regular breaks from driving to give them a drink.
Also take your dog for a long walk before setting off to burn off some energy for a more relaxed journey and avoid feeding your pets for two hours before travelling as many pets suffer from motion sickness.
Even though you may have the windows open, or the air conditioning on full, pets are typically in the boot of the car and often under the full glare of the sun. As it gets hot back there during long journeys, it’s advisable fix window sunshades to keep your pooch comfortable.
It’s not just important to keep your pet safe while on the go - it can be dangerous to leave them unattended in a parked car, even for a few minutes.
Some owners risk leaving their dog in a car if precautions are taken, such as parking under a tree or leaving a window open. But partially lowering any windows has no significant effect on the temperature inside a parked car. In fact, Dogs Trust stress that less than 20 minutes in a hot car can prove fatal to a dog should its body temperature exceed 41°C.
On the rare occasion that you see a distressed animal inside a car and you’re concerned about its welfare, try to alert the owner. If this isn’t possible, contact the police or the RSPCA via their 24-hour helpline: 0300 1234 999.
As a nation of pet lovers, we understand how important it is to take our furry friends on family visits and trips at the weekend. But if you’re planning a trip, make sure you take the necessary precautions to keep you and your pet safe.
If you have any further tips on transporting your pets in safety and comfort, get in touch and share them with us on Facebook and Twitter.