As is the case with many areas in respect to animals and animal welfare, there is significant ambiguity in the phrasing of the rules surrounding the carrying of pets in vehicles.
According to DEFRA and the Scottish Executive the UK Highway Code states: ‘When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other small animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you if you stop quickly’. It also says that in some European countries, the law does not allow dogs to travel loose in vehicles. These two pieces of information appear to be directly contradictory.
It is, therefore, perhaps unsurprising that this uncertainty has led to some worrying results seen in a recent RAC survey of motorists. More than one in four dog owning motorists do not secure their pets in any way; 28% allow them to move freely in a car. Cat owners faired very well however, with over 90% transporting their felines in suitable carriers that are secured in place.
If carrying dogs in the back of an estate or hatchback you should fit an approved dog guard. If a car breaks suddenly any unrestrained animal could continue forwards at the same pre-brake speed and could be hurled into the windscreen or into the driver, potentially causing a catastrophic loss of control that, in turn, could lead to an accident.
If dog crates or cat carriers are used they need to be properly tethered to the vehicle as per the instruction in the car’s manual. If dogs are transported on back seats an approved dog seat-belt harness should always be used.