Last week we protected your car from the results of a muddy and wet walk with your dog.

It follows that this week we focus on protecting your dog, when in the car, which is primarily about restraint!

Leaving a dog unrestrained when driving may result in penalties

There are no specific laws concerning the carriage of dogs or cats in vehicles. But owners could be caught two ways.

The Animal Welfare Act of 2006 makes owners responsible for the welfare of their animals. Allowing your dog to stick its head out of the window on a warm day with the ensuing risk of impact, would fall under that law. Of course not providing suitable ventilation would also constitute a breach. So a sensible balance needs to be struck.

The only specific advice is Rule 57 of the Highway Code. This 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.”

It doesn’t set penalties for the breach, but it would be likely to fall into the offence of driving without due care and attention because of the potential for distraction. This carries a penalty of up to £2,500, 3-9 points and disqualification. Moreover in 2017 GoCompare warned that an unrestrained dog in a road traffic accident could be grounds for an insurance company to invalidate the claim for the same reason.

Research last year by the Dogs Trust showed that 48% of UK dog owners could be breaching the Highway Code as they were unaware of the need for restraint. A quarter also stated that they were distracted by their dog and a tenth had taken their hands off the wheel to restrain it!

Avoiding Injury

Distraction is only one part of the Code. The other is injury to you in an accident when unrestrained items become projectiles moving forward, though the car has stopped. Or injury to the animal as it is the projectile. It is also worth remembering if your pet travels up front to reduce its nervousness then the passenger airbag should be disengaged as they’re not designed for small children or pets.

The simple answer for both distraction and injury is restraint by buying a proper seat belt harness or pet seat belt for your dog. These cost from £4-£70 so whether you put your pet in the boot in a carrier, or the back or front seats they are safe. All relevant Henry Wag products facilitate the use of these harnesses to keep everyone safe inside the car and are available at Henry Wag stockists.