Motorists face potential fines of £5,000 and up to nine penalty points on their license if they fail to take adequate precautions while traveling with their dogs, according to experts.
Pet owners are advised to ensure their dogs are appropriately restrained during car journeys to prevent distractions and potential harm. The surge in new pet owners during the Christmas season raises concerns about drivers transporting their dogs without sufficient awareness of relevant laws.
The Highway Code mandates the use of a seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage, or dog guard to restrain dogs, preventing them from causing distractions or injuries in the vehicle. In the event of a collision and the activation of airbags, unrestrained dogs could suffer serious injuries.
Violating this rule is considered careless driving, resulting in three to nine penalty points and a fine ranging from £1,000 to £5,000 if brought to court.
To ensure the safety of dogs during travel:
Use Appropriate Restraints: Choose a suitable method to restrain your dog in the car, such as a crate, travel harness, carrier, or a boot gate/dog guard. This ensures that your dog stays secure and prevents any potential distractions to the driver.
Deactivate Passenger Airbag in the Front Seat: If your dog is seated in the front, it’s crucial to deactivate the passenger airbag. Also, adjust the seat to its farthest position back. This precaution helps avoid any harm to the dog in case the airbag deploys.
Timing of Dog Meals: To prevent motion sickness during the drive, avoid feeding your dog just before or during the journey. It’s recommended to leave a gap of at least two hours between feeding and traveling to minimize the chances of any digestive issues.
Provide Adequate Water: Keep your dog hydrated throughout the journey by packing plenty of water. Opt for a non-spill water bowl to minimise mess and ensure your dog has access to water whenever needed.
Plan Regular Stops: Long journeys can be tiring for both dogs and humans. Plan your trip with extra time for periodic stops. These breaks allow your dog to stretch its legs, go for walks, and get some fresh air, contributing to a more comfortable and less stressful travel experience.
Avoid Leaving Dogs in Hot Cars: Never leave your dog unattended in a car on warm days. Even with the windows open, temperatures inside a car can quickly rise, leading to dehydration, heatstroke, and distress for your pet. Prioritise your dog’s well-being by taking them with you when you leave the vehicle.
Prevent Dogs from Hanging Out Windows: While it might seem enjoyable for dogs to stick their heads out of car windows, it poses serious risks. Wind damage to eyes and ears, the possibility of getting hit by flying debris, and the chance of encountering unexpected items outside the car make this a hazardous practice. Ensure your dog remains safely inside the vehicle during transit.
By following these guidelines, pet owners can create a safer and more comfortable travel environment for their canine companions.