Dogs in Cars
We are often asked about the legal requirement when traveling with your dog in your car.
The very short answer is that there isn't one but there are lots of implications and possible problems which could occur if this is not done sensibly.
The Highway code states that 'Dogs or other animals should be suitably restrained so as not to distract the driver or injure the driver or themselves in the event that you have to stop quickly' however there is no law at present that makes traveling with your dog unrestrained illegal.
I think however that we should consider the practical problems with having your dog loose in the car.
Firstly, should you have an accident or be forced to stop very quickly you could have maybe 30+ Kilos of dog hurtling forward towards the drivers head, which could very likely cause the driver or animal very serious injury or worse.
Secondly if the dog is free to roam inside the car it is likely to be distracting and a police officer could consider that you were driving without due care.
Thirdly you may find that in the event of an accident your insurance company may consider that you could have been distracted by your animal and invalidate your insurance leaving you liable for your repairs and those of the third party.
Also in the event of an accident an unrestrained animal could escape from the car and a loose dog in the road would compound an already difficult situation!
I think that dog owners tend to opt for an estate type car or at least a hatchback and these make containing the animal much easier. Probably the best way is to buy and fit a crate for the cargo area with a door at the rear to allow entry for the dog, these are available from a number of manufacturers and are often specific for the make and model of vehicle. This might be a problem as they are not inexpensive and if you buy a new car of a different model then it may not be transferable. There are however 'universal' crates available. One big advantage of the crate is that you can leave the rear door open, for instance in hot weather, and the dog cannot get out, they do however restrict access to the cargo area for shopping etc.
There are also nets and fixed guards available for estates and hatchbacks which fit behind the rear seats and would stop a dog flying over the seat in an accident, these are less expensive and are usually more easily transferred between different makes and models.
If you have a saloon car then the dog has to be in the passenger part of the car with you and it is illegal to have it travel in the front. In this case the dog should be fitted with a restraint. These are simple and cheap, there are basically two forms, one clips to the collar and into the seatbelt fitting or the better type are in the form of a harness which also clips into the seat belt buckle. In both cases they should be fitted to the passenger side of the rear seat so that if the dog does come forward it will not hit the driver.
Another very important safety point is teach your dog to stay sitting in the car until you tell it to jump out. The natural action of the dog is to jump out as soon as the door is opened because something exciting might be happening, this could be dangerous if there is other traffic around and it is best to make it the normal thing to wait until it is told to get out.