Whether you’re heading to the vets or the beach, you need to make sure that you’re not breaking the law when travelling by car with your dog. You need to travel in a way that’s safe for you, your dog, your passengers, and other motorists.
Let’s take a look at what the Highway Code has to say about dogs and cars.
Dog Car Law 2019 – The Highway Code
There are no specific laws relating to dogs in cars. But there is some clear guidance in The Highway Code.
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.”
You won’t get penalised for disobeying the Highway Code. But you will get penalised for driving without proper control of your vehicle.
If police catch you driving with an unrestrained dog in the car, they’ll most likely claim that you’re driving without due care and attention. The fines for this offence are severe. You could face a fine of up to £5,000. And if your case goes to court, you could get up to nine points on your licence.
What’s more, if you’re involved in an accident caused by an unrestrained dog in the car, your car insurance provider is very unlikely to pay out. So on top of the hefty fine, you might also have to think about a huge repair bill.
And of course, if your dog’s not properly restrained, they’ll suffer severe injuries in any accident. So you can add vets bills to the cost too – not to mention an overwhelming feeling of guilt!
Travelling with Dogs and Cars – The Essential Safety Checklist
- Do restrain your dog – There are dog harnesses available, so you should have no trouble finding one that’s right for your faithful friend. If your car’s big enough, you could also consider getting a dog cage for your boot.
- Do think about your dog’s welfare – Bring plenty of food and water, make regular stops on long journeys, use window shades to protect them from direct sunlight, and do whatever you can to keep them calm. This might be something as simple as giving them their favourite toy to play with during the journey!
- Do make driving fun – Take regular trips to the park, or the beach, or anywhere else fun with your dog. Otherwise, they’ll associate car journeys with trips to the vet. This means they’ll be anxious and distressed anytime they get in the car, which is the last thing you want.
- Don’t leave your dog unrestrained – This means you shouldn’t let them sit on your knee, and you shouldn’t let them stick their head out of the window. They might enjoy the breeze, but this is incredibly dangerous behaviour. Also, don’t open the windows all the way down. Open them a little, so they can keep cool, but if they’re entirely open your dog might try and jump out!
- Don’t forget to switch off airbags – If your dog’s going to sit in the front seat, move the seat back as far as you can, and switch off the passenger-side airbag. It might do more harm than good to your dog if you’re involved in an accident.
- Don’t leave your dog alone in the car – On warm days, dogs can overheat in a hot car in a matter of minutes. But even on cold days, leaving them alone in a parked car can cause them to feel abandoned and distressed.
Finally, remember that all dogs who regularly go outside must have a microchip implanted by the time they’re eight weeks old. And if your taking your dog on a long journey, don’t forget their collar! It should feature your name and address, so that if they get lost, people will know who to contact.
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