Travelling with Dogs
Many consider pets to be a part of our family. Travelling by car with dogs has become common, unfortunately, it is common place to see cars on the roads with unrestrained dogs leaning out of the window appearing as though they may jump out at any moment. I am always concerned that the dog may come to some harm should the vehicle be forced to brake swiftly or even become involved in a collision.
So, what is the law on driving with dogs?
Rule 58 of the Highway Code deals with travelling with pets and 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.”
Not following the Highway Code is not necessarily an offence but there are a number of offences that could result from driving with an unrestrained pet. A motorist could be considered to be driving ‘without due care and attention’ if it was felt that their standard of driving fell below that expected of a competent driver or that they did not show “reasonable” consideration for other road users. A distracting, unrestrained dog jumping about in a vehicle could definitely be considered to be sufficient reason to be prosecuted.
Clearly there is potential for an accident to happen and if that were to arise, the more serious offence of dangerous driving could be applicable. The penalty for dangerous driving is far more severe as the offence attracts not only a custodial sentence but also a mandatory disqualification of at least twelve months.
Below are our some Dogs Trust top tips:
- Secure your pet – make sure your dog is secure and comfortable on a journey for their own safety and so they cannot distract you. They should be fitted with a correctly sized harness or positioned within a travelling crate or container
- Never leave pets alone in cars – don’t leave your dog alone in the car. Even if it seems cool outside it can become very hot very quickly. Parking in the shade and/or keeping the windows down does not make it safe!
- Keep pets cool – make sure you keep your dog as cool as possible when driving. Avoid travelling during the heat of the day, use sun blinds on the windows and consider opening a window a little to allow a cooling breeze to circulate in the vehicle
- Stop en route to give pets a drink – make sure you have a supply of water and know where you can stop for water breaks. Dogs are not able to cool down as effectively as humans so could suffer from heat stroke and dehydration very quickly
- Allow pets to adjust to travelling – allow your dog to become familiar with car journeys by ensuring they have positive experiences over a number of short trips before embarking on a long journey
- Plan journeys and routes carefully – plan your journey time and route carefully as you'll need to stop at regular intervals to exercise your pet
- Consider suitable pet destinations – consider your pet with regards to your destination. Busy environments, such as bustling city centres or loud carnivals and public events are not always suitable for dogs as they can get distressed
- Feeding your pet in advance of travel – feed your pet no closer than two hours before a long journey to ensure that your pet does not have a full stomach when travelling
- Always have food at the ready – take a supply of your dog’s usual food in the event that you get stuck in traffic or have a breakdown
- Always have a harness or lead at the ready – keep the dog’s harness or lead close to hand in case you need to get out of the vehicle
- Do not let dogs hang their head outside cars – Dogs Trust advises that owners shouldn’t allow their dog to hang their head out of the window while they are moving as this could be potentially dangerous for the dog as well as distracting for the owner
- In an emergency – if you see a distressed dog in a vehicle please call 999, or either the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999 or the Scottish SPCA on 03000 999 999