Do Dogs Need Seat Belts in Car Journeys? (What’s Legal)

If you’re a UK dog owner, then you might be wondering do dogs have to wear seat belts when travelling in the car.

The highway code states that you must ensure animals are suitably restrained and you may have an issue with your insurance company if you have an accident and have an unrestrained pet in the vehicle.

Keep reading and we’ll answer the question do dogs need seat belts in car rides, show you how to use a dog seat belt harness and look at some alternatives.

Should Dogs Wear Seat Belts?

All pet owners are responsible for their pet’s safety, especially when travelling in a car; you wouldn’t let your child travel without car seats or a seatbelt, so why your dog?

Many dog owners overlook pet safety and let their dogs travel in the passenger seat, often with their heads out of the window, which is extremely dangerous. This video shows a dog jumping out of a car window on a busy highway and the consequences could have been much worse.

Not only might they try and clamber into the driver’s lap, but if you have to stop quickly or have an accident, there could be fatal consequences.

A seat belt tether, harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are all acceptable ways of restraining animals in cars.

Why Does My Dog Need a Seat Belt Harness?

Risking lives

A recent study by Kurgo found that up to two-thirds of drivers have been distracted by their dogs when driving.

Did you know that a dog weighing 10lbs becomes a 500lbs projectile if you crash at 50 miles per hour? Now just imagine if you have a Newfoundland in the back seat and have to make a sudden stop?

After an accident, your dog may panic and flee the scene straight into oncoming traffic. There have even been cases of delayed treatment to drivers because dogs haven’t let emergency services get close enough to help. If you need further assistance, see this guide on keeping a dog safe in the car.

Invalidating your insurance

If you ever have a accident, your insurance company will want to know the details. If they discover you were breaking the law by not making sure animals were restrained when the crash occurred, chances are the claim will be denied even if the impact wasn’t your fault.

Another thing to remember about car insurance is that it won’t cover any vet bills for a dog injured in an accident, so make sure you have pet insurance in place before taking your dog in the car.

UK Dog Seat Belt Laws (Overview)

The law recommends, carriers, seat belt harnesses and crates when driving with dogs, but to be honest, the law is rather vague. While you won’t necessarily get stopped by the police for having an unrestrained animal in the car, the Highway Code rule 57 says all pets must be suitably restrained when in a vehicle.

That being said, pets jumping around the back seats can be extremely distracting and if you get pulled over for driving without due care and attention, you could be subject to a hefty fine of up to £2500 and end up with nine points on your licence. You may even get a ban or have to take a retest.

So apart from the safety aspect, it’s definitely better to secure your pets when you are going on a ride.

How Do Dog Seat Belts Work?

They are really a harness that goes over your pup’s head, cinches at the chest and then get clipped to a car’s safety belt using a carabiner. This way, owners can feel safe about letting their dogs ride in vehicles without worrying about them moving around too much when stopped or going flying into something if you slam on the brakes.

A good harness lets Fido lie down with ease but not be able to move around too much; not only do they give drivers peace of mind that their pup is properly restrained, but they can also offer comfort and security for dogs that suffer from car anxiety. For smaller dogs, they are often combined with a booster seat to see out of the window.

How to Use Dog Seat Belt

When purchasing a seatbelt harness, it’s essential to get the right fit; too tight and your dog will be uncomfortable too loose, and they may be able to slip out of it during the journey. To secure the animal properly, adjust the harness to fit snugly, then attach both the waist and shoulder straps of the belt to the carabiner or nylon loop.

Make sure to attach the carabiner to the webbing of the harness, not the leash attachment, as this won’t be strong enough to hold in an accident.

The Safest Place for Dogs in the Car

So, where is the best place to keep your pet safe in a car? The choice is yours, really, although you should always make sure the airbag is disabled to keep your pet safe if they are travelling in the front.

Alternatives To Seat Belts

Pet Carrier

These are designed for smaller dogs, cats and other animals travelling in cars and should be placed in the back seat (not in the middle) by the doors; secure it in place using the seat belt and if the carrier has straps utilise these to keep everything in place. Buckle up the belt and pull it tight around the carrier. It’s important that you have a good booster seat for dogs on car rides so they are comfortable and settled.

Dog Guard

If you own multiple dogs or a large breed, the best way to keep everyone safe is by using a metal guard which separates the passenger areas from the boot. Just have them jump into the back of the car where they will be safe and secure away from the human occupants in the vehicle but can still see what’s going on.

Dog Cage / Crate

Some of the crates are the ideal solutions if you have an SUV or larger vehicle, these can be secured into position, giving more peace of mind and both dogs and humans will be protected in the event of a crash. Just make sure the crate is solidly made!

5 Tips for Driving With Your Dog

1) Never leave your furry friend in a hot car

2) Always take plenty of water with you

3) Never let them put their heads out of an open window

4) Don’t feed them for at least two hours before going on a journey to avoid motion sickness

5) Keep them contained, you may have an accident, but they could escape when you are loading the shopping, or the kids are getting in and out.

Last Word

The information and tips above should help you make an informed decision about whether or not your dog needs a belt, pet carrier or would be better off in a dog crate in the boot of the car.

Whichever one you choose, ensure that it is made from high-quality materials and look out for ones that have been crash tested for extra peace of mind.

Is it illegal to have an unrestrained dog in a car? Well, not essentially; however, you could be pulled over for driving without due care and attention, which is illegal and could result in a considerable fine and up to nine penalty points on your licence.

John Devlin

Blogger and owner of George and Henry. Two gorgeous goldens that couldn’t be more different. One is a dream loving and caring, and his sibling is as naughty as can be. When I am not blogging about dogs, I love watching sport and travelling with the family.
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