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Is it against the law to have my pet unrestrained while driving?

We are often asked by our customers, 'Is it against...

Dogs / 29.03.2016

Is it against the law to have my pet unrestrained while driving?

We are often asked by our customers, 'Is it against the law to have my pet unrestrained while driving?' It would seem as if there is more than one answer to this question, which is divided by public opinion. We assume that the more people who ask, the more who are concerned by the consequences, yet in a recent online poll on news website Mirror, of more than 500 people asked that 72% admitted that they do not restrain their pet while driving. To summarise a very long answer in one sentence; The Highway Code states that all pets must be restrained while travelling, however it is not necessarily an offence in itself to breach the highway code. Let’s look at this in more detail.

Rule 58 of the Highway Code deals with travelling with pets and 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 stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.”

Failing to follow this section of the Highway Code may not come with immediate repercussions, however you could be seen as breaking other laws of the road. A motorist could be considered to be driving ‘without due care and attention’ if it was felt that their standard of driving fell below that expected of a competent driver or that they did not show “reasonable” consideration for other road users. There is no definitive list of actions that can amount to careless driving however a distracting unrestrained dog jumping about in a vehicle could definitely be considered.

More concerning is the potential for an accident and if that were to arise, the more serious offence of dangerous driving could be applicable. The penalty for dangerous driving is far more severe as the offence attracts not only a custodial sentence but also a mandatory disqualification of your license at least twelve months.

Not only can a loose dog easily distract the driver but unrestrained dogs can also block or move the steering wheel, gear stick and foot pedals. A loose dog could be injured or killed by an airbag and when hanging its head out of a car window, debris from the road could injure a dog’s eyes, nose and mouth. Despite risk of a serious accident or injury, the law only recommends a seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or guard as ways of restraining your pet while driving. This issue can extend itself to repercussions outside of the law. Gocompare.com warns that drivers who don’t restrain dogs and cats while on the move could be invalidating their car insurance.

That means if you're in an accident, you could be made to pay for any damage to your car and any other cars involved, not to mention any medical or other costs resulting - something that could easily add up to a five-figure bill.

“Driving with your pet is sometimes a necessity, whether it’s a short trip to the vet or a longer trip for a weekend way - but making sure they are properly controlled is essential for the safety of everyone in the car,” said Gocompare car insurance spokesman Matt Oliver.

“The law is clear – you must secure your animal while in a car, therefore if you don’t do this and an animal roaming freely around the vehicle is said to have contributed to causing an accident, then an insurance company could be well within their rights not to pay out on a claim.”

Regardless of the law, we always have the safety of all pets at the forefront of our minds. We stock an excellent range of travel products and accessories that give you the flexibility with your pet when travelling anywhere. Click here to check out our travel range. A simple seatbelt tether which attaches directly to your dogs harness can be yours for as low as £7.95.