Many of us take our pets with us when we go out in the car and it’s a common sight to see unrestrained hounds hanging out of the passenger window. I don’t know about you, but as a dog lover, I cringe when I see this.
What if the driver has to brake suddenly, or even worse, is involved in an accident. You and your passengers are protected, so surely your best friend should be too.
Not only that an unrestrained pet is a distraction, but you may also need to take your hands off the wheel to push them out of the way; they may try and climb onto your lap, you may turn round to reassure them or see what they’re up to.
If you have a bump, they may jump out of the vehicle when the door is opened, causing a hazard to other drivers. that’s why a seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or boot grill is essential
So what is the law on dogs in cars? Let’s take a look and also how to travel safely with your canine companion.
What UK Law Actually States about Dogs in Cars
There aren’t specific dogs in cars law but the highway code states that your best friend must be restrained so they cannot distract you while driving. Although not adhering to the highway code itself doesn’t incur a direct penalty, you can still be stopped for driving without due care, which can result in a fine, penalty points or, in extreme cases, a driving ban.
Driving Safely with a Dog in the Car
Driving with an unrestrained pet can be extremely dangerous as even if your pooch is well-behaved in the motor, you do not have proper control. If you have to stop quickly or have an accident, unrestrained pets can be thrown forward, endangering both the driver and themselves.
If you have an accident caused by an unrestrained dog, your car insurance company is unlikely to pay out and if you are convicted of dangerous driving, you could be liable to a hefty fine.
There is an easy way to avoid this, make sure your dog is restrained on long journeys and even short trips. You can have a cage or guard in the boot, a belt harness, dog carrier or secure car seat.
Check out our latest pet safety car seat reviews for restraining animals in cars.
Ways of Restraining Dogs on Car rides
Seat Belt Harness
Recommended by the Highway Code, a seat belt dog harness is a great way to keep Fido secure on a long car journey. Animals are suitably restrained by a clip that attaches the harness to the seat belt, meaning they will not be thrown forward if you brake suddenly. Always remember to disable the passenger-side airbag as if this inflates, it can do more harm than good.
If your furry friend likes to curl up and get comfy on a long journey, or you have a small dog that enjoys looking out of the window, a car seat or booster seat may be an option. If you brake quickly, a seat belt will keep them in place, saving your pets from being hurt. Like the harness, pet car seats should only be used in the front if the airbag is disabled.
Dog Guard or Dog Cage in Boot
You may find one of the safest ways of restraining your pup is to invest in a cage or dog guard for your vehicle ] which will make sure dogs remain safe and secure in the boot of the car. Some pooches will happily sleep in their crates, but a guard is a great alternative as it will prevent Fido from scrambling over the seats whilst still giving them the freedom to move around on journeys. Check this for a list of the best dog guards we reviewed
Like Doggy seats, pet carriers should be secured via the seat belt, many have an opening for your furry friends to peek out if they want to and ventilation but also provide security for those pups and other animals who get anxious on car journeys a mesh or plastic carrier dog cage is an affordable option when you are looking at ways of restraining animals in cars.
Are Dogs Allowed in the Front Seat?
Dogs can travel in the front seat of your vehicle as long as you use one of the ways of restraining animals mentioned; the seat is pushed as far back as it can be and the airbag is disabled. An airbag inflates with so much force your dog can be crushed or even killed should it be activated in a collision. So perhaps a harness, belt harness, pet carrier cage or dog guard for the back seats are a better option just in case you forget.
Top Tips for Safe Car Rides With Your Dog
If you are travelling with your four-legged friend or other animals, these are some important Do’s and Dont’s
1) Always Take Water
Take at least 5 litres of water so your pet can have regular drinks and there is enough to cool them down should they get overheated; cars get extremely hot, especially on long journeys, so keep the air conditioning on and use window shades.
2) Don’t let Dogs Put Their Heads Out of the Window
This is a very dangerous habit; your dog could be hit by flying debris or get dust, sand or stones in their eyes. Pooches have also been known to jump out of the windows. Yes, it does happen more than you think and can cause serious injury, even death.
This video shows a dog’s lucky escape after jumping out of a window on a busy road.
3) Regular Breaks on Long Rides
If you are going on a long journey, always be sure to make frequent stops so your pet can have toilet breaks, stretch their legs, and pick somewhere safe, not by the side of a busy road.
4) Keep Your Pet Out of The Sun
A hot car is not pleasant and even more so for our fur babies; always keep your dog out of direct sunlight when driving; you can purchase relatively cheap sun shades which will prevent Fido from becoming hot and bothered.
5) Help Your Dog Relax in the Car
Not all pups enjoy car rides, so it’s important to get them used to travel at a young age and help them relax whilst in your vehicle. If animals are suitably restrained, they tend to feel more secure and you can always give them a blanket and their favourite toy to help soothe their anxiety.
You may find this article on calming a dogs anxiety in car rides interesting if you have a nervous pup.
6) Never Leave your Dog in the Car on a Hot Day
Make sure dogs or other pets are never left in a parked car on a hot day; it really is like putting them in an oven, and every year there are cases of dog’s dying whilst their owners have just nipped into a shop and been gone longer than they thought. Even if the windows are open to allow fresh air, just don’t risk it.
The Last Word
So, there you have it whilst you won’t be breaking any laws travelling with an unrestrained pet, you will be breaking the Highway Code and there could still be serious consequences. Driving without due care and attention can result in up to 9 penalty points, a maximum fine of £5000 and your car insurance may be invalid if you have an accident.
As a nation of animal lovers, we should all be restraining our dogs in cars for their safety and ours; it’s your choice whether you use a belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or wire grill; each has its benefits.
Keeping pets safe on road trips is a must!