Does My Pet Need To Be Harnessed In My Car Whilst Driving?

Jack Russell dog, in car,

Is it the law that I have to secure my pet whilst driving?

Our beloved pets take many millions of car trips annually, which are often not strapped in, buckled up, or travelling in pet carriers or animal crates. 

Having driven behind a car up the MI motorway, in the UK, with a beautiful roaming siamese cat on the back ledge, I know how distracting this can be to all other drivers on the road.

The authorities can issue hefty fines of up to £5,000 if drivers are caught with animals roaming lose around in their vehicles and particularly where they cause accidents and emergencies where drivers insurance becomes invalidated. 

Millions of motorists are unaware that they can be fined for careless driving according to the comparison website, Confused.com.

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 need to stop quickly.
“A seat belt dog harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.”


The Highway Code recommends seat belt harnesses, pet carriers, dog cages or dog guards. If an accident occurs, and a driver breaks suddenly, large animals can actually cause severe bodily harm being thrown around inside the car, possibly injuring the driver. 

There are many pictures online showing dogs leaning out windows, while the car is in motion, but this is potentially dangerous for all pets and road users. Police can stop car drivers if they see lose pets distracting drivers, imposing fines up to £1,000.

Driving with an unrestrained pet causing an accident can invalidate the owner’s car insurance, meaning the driver having to personally pay out for hefty repair bills in the event of a claim.

Fines can be increased substantially, for failing to drive with due care and attention to £5,000 and nine penalty points on the driver’s license if the case went to court. In extreme cases, the incident could also result in a driving ban and a compulsory re-test.

10 BEST TIPS to safely travel with your pets

  • Train puppies to travel in a car from an early age during their ‘socialisation’ fastened or secured in a crate or boot area.
  • If your pet has never travelled a long distance in a car, and you are planning to travel, then start a couple of weeks before introducing them to a longer journey, building up the time they spend in their harness, cage, or boot area. It helps enormously to ease any anxiety they may have.
  • Making sure pets are not fed a couple of hours before travelling on a long journey to avoid car sickness which will help them for travelling longer journeys.
  • Providing them with exercise before the start may make them sleepy during the journey and more rested, less anxious.  
  • Ensure they have a comfortable blanket to lie on, or soft duvet mattress, especially if in a crate, boot of car or pet carrier.
  • Use sun shades on windows during hot weather to help keep the temperature down in the vehicle if you’re without air conditioning.
  • Park in the shade during pet stops, to keep the car cool. 
  • Longer journeys require stops where dogs can get out of the car, have a drink of fresh water, have a walk for a few minutes to stretch and relieve themselves. Smaller pets such as cats may be fast asleep and don’t need waking for a break.
  • Dogs should be strapped in with a quality harness, if sitting on the back seat or lose in the boot area of the car. Harnesses, cages and carriers may not always save your pet’s life in an accident but it will help to avoid animals being thrown into the air knocking into passengers and causing injury.
  • On arrival, let your pet get out and stretch their legs and have a drink of water and relieve themselves before sorting out any other matters. Cats in carriers may naturally wake when the vehicle motion stops and may want some calming words of reassurance. Attend to them providing them water and a litter tray in their new home, before attending to other matters.

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