Millions Of Drivers Break The Law By Not Restraining Dogs In Cars

New Dogs Trust safety campaign confirms how to travel legally and safely with pets in a vehicle

Dog safety survey results

Millions of motorists keen for their dogs to share family adventures break the law, risk their lives, and jeopardise the safety of their pets by not taking safety precautions while travelling in cars, The Dogs Trust Houndway Code campaign explains. 

Its survey says that 44% of the owners that drive – which is about 2.5 million in The UK – never use a harness, for starters. Further:

  • 76% of dogs are not trained how to behave in cars
  • 25% of drivers find their pets distracting
  • 10% of drivers take their hands off the wheel to restrain pets
  • 5% of drivers play with their animals en route

Dogs in cars and the law

Highway Code Rule 57 states: “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 loose dog might:

  • move freely in the car and knock (say) the steering wheel
  • move freely in the vehicle and be distracting 
  • be thrown forwards and injured if there is a collision
  • be thrown forwards and hurt motorists if there is a collision
  • escape through an open window into the path of traffic

Breaking Highway Code Rule 57 might lead to a charge of driving without due care and attention – even if a journey is short and the intention is to exercise, entertain and stimulate a loved pet. The potential consequence is a £2,500 fine plus 3 to 9 penalty points.

The Houndway Code

The Dogs Trust Houndway Code confirms how to keep pets safe and comfortable while travelling. It says:

  • purchase a seatbelt harness, boot crate or cargo guard
  • ensure any harness is the correct size
  • make the dog feel secure by surrounding it with familiar items
  • ensure the dog is properly hydrated
  • never leave the dog alone in a vehicle
  • train the dog to wait calmly before entering/leaving the car to minimise the risk of it leaping into the path of traffic

Dogs important part of family life

Dr Rachel Casey, Director of Canine Behaviour and Research for Dogs Trust, explains: “Dogs are such an important part of people’s lives, so it is understandable owners want to take them out and about”.

“However, our survey shows many people do not know the safest way to travel with their dogs. Some are even unwittingly breaking the law by letting their dogs roam around the car whilst on the move.”

Ferry companies are allowed to make you lock your dog in the car for the duration of the crossing in a uncontrolled temperature environment. What do the Dogs Trust and RSPCA for that matter, have to say about this?.

I was recently overtaken (whilst cycling) by a lady driving with a West Highland Terrier sat in her lap. I couldn't believe it at the time. What shocked me even more was that most of the people I told about it didn't understand why I was concerned. Many of them even admitted to having had dogs loose in the car themselves.

I expect it could of been worse...she could of been on the phone at the same time.

She overtook me on the approach to a pedestrian crossing and then went through the crossing on red.