It’s fully legal to drive a car with a pet onboard. According to Rule 57 of the Highway Code, “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.”
Based on this, it’s OK to take your dog with you head out in the car, but he or she can not—in any way—disturb you from driving so that it can potentially lead to an accident. Vets also agree that improper dog handling practices inside a car are one of the main reasons accidents happen.
When driving, you need to have your pet restrained with a seat belt, cage, or any other tool to keep them under control. Failure to do this may increase your penalty points, or worse, you may be subject to insurance removal or a hefty fine.
Taking a Dog Irresponsibly May Lead to Injuries
It’s not only about the risk of prosecution but also injury to your dog. Unrestrained pets can be hurt much easier. Outside of blocking the steering wheel, dogs can also hurt themselves via airbag or hanging their head outside the car’s window. Abrupt braking and collision are also possible, which may result in further injuries.
What to Do While Driving With a Dog
Don’t use chains around the neck or other dangerous methods to restrain your dog. Coincidentally, Rule 57 has already listed some means to constrain your pet properly. You can choose one of them depending on what kind of dog you have.
Seat Belt Harnesses
A seat belt harness is a special type of harness that also functions as a seat belt. These harnesses are usually equipped around the pet’s body and can clip to an existing seat belt or to the seat itself. This will help protect your dog from accidents. Quality seat belt harnesses are sold for around 10 pounds.
Carriers and Cages
Cages and crates are perfect for smaller dogs. To be even safer, placing the cage on the rear passenger seat with a seatbelt is sufficient. Similar to seat belt harnesses, you should be able to find decent cages on the 10 pounds price range.
One advantage of a dog guard is that it gives your dog much more freedom of movement. Dividing the boot and the rear seat area with a dog guard will also prevent your dog from distracting you while driving.
Some cars may have built-in guards, but if you’re looking to get a sturdier one or one isn’t built-in, nice ones are sold starting around £30.
Below, we’ll explain some additional tips so that your dog is not only safe but comfortable during your ride, especially on long journeys.
Make Sure Your Dog is in Good Condition For The Trip
The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs listed a recommendation not to take an animal if he or she has one of these conditions: injured/ill, new-born, incapable of feeding without the mother, and heavily pregnant or just given birth.
These conditions only serve as guidelines, so they’re not mandatory to follow. However, it’s best to abide by the recommendation if possible.
Make Them Comfy
Safety is only one part of the equation; your dog also needs to be in a pleasant environment. If you put the dog in a cage or carrier, adding blankets and toys should help them relax. In addition, giving them a drink from time to time is a good idea. If necessary, you can purchase a ‘car bowl’ designed to not spill in the car.
Don’t Let the Dog Stick Their Head Outside Window
Debris and small animals may fly into your dog’s eyes. For windows positioned close to the dog, don’t open them too wide or close it altogether. You can open a window further away, for example the front window.
There’s nothing wrong with traveling together with your dog, even more so if you treat them as part of the family. You can’t just leave your family at home, can you?
That said, it pays to be careful. Unlike humans, you can’t easily communicate with them or make them obedient, but you can make it easier for yourself. After all, happy moments can turn into a disaster should you neglect safety.