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

PET CHECK BLOG - Jack Russell dog in car

\\\ Pet Travel and The Laws

\\\ updated Summer 2022

Do I have To Secure My Pet Whilst Driving?

The simple answer is ‘yes’!

Millions of owners simply are not aware that they need to harness their pet into a seat or area of their vehicle to ensure the safety of their pet, themselves, and other road users.

Why Do I Need To Harness My Dog In A Car?

Modern motor vehicles are really not designed for animals. Their priority is very low when it comes to vehicle design features despite the many millions of pets that reside in our homes and take car journeys every day. So it is important to harness your pet for their safety, your safety, and other road users.

Car trips are the most popular way of travel in the UK, with many millions being made annually, according to the Department of Transport, where pets are often not strapped in, buckled up, travelling in pet carriers or animal crates as the law dictates, by way of The Highway Code. 

Is it just dogs that need to be restrained in a car?

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.”

  • Millions of motorists are unaware they can be fined for careless driving.
  • 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 has 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.
  • The authorities can issue hefty fines of up to £5,000 if drivers are caught with animals roaming loose around in their vehicles and particularly where they cause accidents and emergencies where drivers’ insurance becomes invalidated.

The Highway Code rules about animals, Rules 47-58, recommend 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 by being thrown around inside the car, possibly injuring the driver. 

There are many fun pictures on social media showing dogs leaning out windows, while the car is in motion, but this is potentially dangerous for all dogs and road users.

With more than 12.5 million dogs living in our pet households, and 12.5 million cats, (data from the PMFA, 2021) this is a real problem, not just for the pet owner but for other drivers on the road when pets are not safely secured.

Summer Traffic Jams

Coping with hot and tired pets, let alone the kids and the rest of the family are made more difficult by failing to check ahead for possible traffic jams and long delays when taking longer journeys.

Make sure the Channel Tunnel is operating with no delays, boats, and ferries are not cancelled and there are no major road works on major roads holding up traffic queues for miles. Plan before you travel.

Before you travel a long journey it’s important your pet is ready and familiar with their travel space, so a few practice runs of lengthening local journeys is important the month before having given your dog a long walk before boarding your vehicle or cat in their carrier, fixed carefully in their travel space.

Even with the air conditioning working, it’s a great idea to use extra window shades so the sun is not pointing directly at your pet keeping temperatures as cool as possible.

Feeding them well in advance of a journey and walking them for a longer time is highly recommended prior to them boarding, to wear them out, and hopefully, they will snooze during a lot of the journey.

Stopping on long breaks to refresh is essential for not just the driver and passengers but your dog as well who may need to drink some water and urinate. Make sure you keep them on a lead in new unfamiliar areas as you certainly don’t want to be chasing them if they run away near busy road junctions. Cats may be less bothered, possibly sleeping through a whole journey but may need fresh water in their crate.

How Do I Fasten My Pet Into My Car?

With many different vehicles makes and models on the roads, it is difficult for pet and animal manufacturers to make standard models that fit all vehicles, but there are several types to choose from.

The 4 most popular pet restraints are –

  • The Carrier is ideal for cats and small dogs, and the smaller carriers are for small pets such as pet rabbits, hedgehogs, rats, and mice. Additionally use a restraint, such as the existing seat belt to secure the carrier on the seat or footwell.
  • The Harness is suitable for well-behaved dogs to sit restrained into a seat well.
  • The Crate is suitable for several different reasons, including use when pets travel in the back boot areas of cars.
  • Dog guards between sections of your vehicle restrict animals from climbing around whilst driving, for example between the driver and front passenger compartment and rear passenger compartment, when your pet may be seated in the rear.

All types of travel restraints are available from better pet suppliers such as Pets At Home and Jollyes pet stores, both shops and online. Make sure you take time in checking out the measurements of your pet to ensure you’re buying the correct size of restraints and if they are a puppy or kitten, then you may like to consider buying the larger size for a full-grown pet, particularly crates and carriers which can be expensive.

\\\ Pets Travelling Safely

PET CHECK BLOG Cavapoo sitting on towel in a car

How To Travel Safely With Your Pets

10 Top Tips To Travel Safely With Your Pet

  1. Train puppies to travel in a car from an early age during their ‘socialisation’ period to be fastened or secured in a crate or boot area.
  2. If your pet has never travelled a long distance in a car, and you are planning to do so, then start a couple of weeks before introducing them to the long journey, allowing them to build up the time they spend in their harness, cage, or boot area. It helps enormously to ease any anxiety they may have.
  3. Ensure pets are not fed for a couple of hours before travelling on a long journey to avoid car sickness, which will help them travel longer journeys.
  4. Providing them with exercise before the start of the journey may make them sleepy during the journey and more rested, and less anxious.  
  5. Ensure they have a comfortable blanket to lie on, or a soft duvet mattress, especially if travelling in a crate, boot of a car or pet carrier.
  6. Use sun shades on windows during hot weather to help keep the temperature down in the vehicle, particularly if you’re without air conditioning.
  7. Park in the shade during pet stops, to keep the car as cool as possible. 
  8. Longer journeys require stops where dogs can get out of the car, have a drink of fresh water, and 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 to wake for a break.
  9. 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 they help to avoid pets from being thrown into the air knocking into passengers and causing further injury.
  10. 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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