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

PET CHECK BLOG - Jack Russell dog in car

\\\ Pet Travel Laws

\\\ updated October 2021

Do I have To Secure My Pet Whilst Driving?

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

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. 

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.

Modern motor vehicles are really not designed for animals. Their priority is very low down despite the many millions of pets that reside in our homes and take car journeys every day.

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 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.
  • 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.

The Highway Code rules about animals, Rules 47-58, 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 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, this is a real problem, not just to the pet owner but to other drivers on the road when pets are not safely secured.

Having driven behind a car, up the UK’s M1 motorway, with a beautiful roaming Siamese cat sitting on the back ledge, I know how distracting this can be to all other drivers on the road.

Pet Check

How Do I Fasten My Pet Into My Car?

With many different vehicle 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 are –

  • The Carrier ideal for cats and small dogs, the smaller carriers for small pets such as pet rabbits, hedgehogs, rats and mice. Additionally use a restraint to secure the carrier on the seat or foot well.
  • The Harness suitable for dogs to sit restrained into a seat well.
  • The Crate suitable for several different reasons, including using travelling in the back boot areas of cars.
  • Dog guards between sections of your vehicle restricting animals from climbing around whilst driving.

All types are available from the better pet suppliers such as Pets At Home or Jollyes. Make sure you take time in checking out the measurements of your pet to ensure you’re buying the correct size.

\\\ Pets Travelling Safely

How To Travel Safely With Your Pets

10 tips travelling safely with your pets

  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 longer 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, less anxious.  
  5. Ensure they have a comfortable blanket to lie on, or soft duvet mattress, especially if travelling in a crate, boot of 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, 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.
  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 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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