What the law says
Rule 57 of The Highway Code clearly states that, “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.”
The Rule also recommends using a seatbelt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard – which, should you need to make an emergency stop, can all provide essential protection for pet, passengers and driver.
The right restraints
Many SUVs and estate cars come equipped with built-in luggage guards to prevent items in the back of the car from flying into the cabin area. But these aren’t designed to deal with the weight of a large or medium-sized dog under heavy braking. Specially-made animal guards are far stronger, and will help protect you and your pet in the event of a collision.
A pet carrier or dog cage can provide added protection, and if your dog sits on a back seat inside the cabin space, you should always use a dog harness, which fits around the pet’s chest, and clips to the standard seatbelt.
Cool and comfortable
On hot days, you probably drive around with the air conditioning switched on or a window open. But as most dogs travel in the rear compartment of the car, they may not receive the full benefit of in-car cooling systems. So consider fitting sunshades to your rear windows to shield them from the glare of the sun.
If your passengers need to take a drink of water along the journey, it’s likely your dog could be thirsty too. So don’t forget to pack a large bottle of water and a drinking bowl, and take plenty of comfort breaks along the way.
Pets in parked cars
Most pet owners are fully aware of the dangers of leaving a dog in a parked car, yet it seems that every summer the papers feature a headline about yet another dog that’s died due to neglect. This is often because the owners have mistakenly believed that cracking open a window will allow plenty of fresh air to circulate. But partially opening a window will have no significant effect on the temperature inside a car.
Dogs Trust reports that just 20 minutes inside a hot parked car can prove fatal to a dog - so never leave your dog in your car. And if you see a distressed animal inside a car and you’re concerned about its welfare, try to alert the owner. Or if you can’t find them, contact the Police or the RSPCA via their 24-hour helpline - 0300 1234 999.