The laws on driving with pets in your car

Driving with your pets is great - but there are some things you need to do before you set off. We're here to help you keep your pets safe in the car.


By Marmalade Author

Updated on May 15th, 2024

When heading off on a road trip, we pop our little fluff balls in the back or passenger seat and set off without thinking anything more of it. However, just like putting a baby in a car – there are precautions that need to be taken to ensure everyone in the car is safe. Here are things you need to remember before going anywhere with your pet in your car.

Keep it secure

If you’re found not securing your pet in the car safely, it could cost you your licence, or worse! Granted, many people who do have cats will pop them in a carrier before setting off – so this one is mainly for you dog lovers out there.

The Highway Code states drivers need to ensure ‘dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so that they cannot distract you whilst you are driving, or injure you, or themselves if you stop too quickly’. So what does that really mean? You’ve got to strap them in just like you would yourself, or any other member of your family who can’t do it themselves.

In our recent Twitter poll of 221 dog lovers, 58% of drivers said that they do not use a seatbelt or similar restraint on their dogs when they’re in the car with them! It’s great to see people’s honesty, but it goes to show that more needs to be done to keep our dogs safe in the car!

1. How do you restrain your dog in the car?

We want to protect our babies (dogs… I mean dogs) – don’t we? Well, we need to make sure they’re safe on road trips, too! Getting a suitable restraint for your dog is key to keeping them and you safe.

Now you can’t just use anything to restrain your dog in your car. Shockingly, some vets have witnessed dog owners placing a chain or rope around their dog’s neck and securing them in the car that way. Now, if I have to explain to you why you shouldn’t do that, you probably shouldn’t have a dog at all!

So, what different restraints can you use? Well, there is a variety for all shapes and sizes of dogs – below is a list of different ways you can restrain your dog in your car. It may be best to ask your vet which restraint would be best for the type of dog you have.

  1. Seatbelts
  2. Harness
  3. Car seat
  4. Cage/crate

Don’t worry – none of these restraints will break the bank. Of course, costs vary, but you’re looking at around £10-£20 to keep your little fluff ball safe.

2. Is it illegal not to restrain your dog in the car?

Well yes – it can be! Having your dog in your car without it being properly restrained could mean you’re breaking the law. This is because you need to be concentrating on driving, and having your dog loose in your car could easily be a distraction, which may then lead you to crash.

What else do you need to know?

Whilst restraining your dog correctly and safely in your car is a big issue – there are many other things you need to remember and plan on your journey. These include:

  1. Have regular breaks where your dog can roam 
  2. Take lots of water with you
  3. Make it comfortable
  4. Keep the inside of the car as cool as possible

Hanging out the window

Driving along and letting your dog hang its head out of the window may seem like a funny and cute idea, but it’s incredibly dangerous to them and to you. Many videos are circulating on the internet where our loved pets have fallen out of the car window at high speeds because we have been careless enough to let them put their head out of it. It’s dangerous – and shouldn’t be done.

Keep it cool

Cars get hot, we all know that! And whilst we may be getting the blast of air con or rush of breeze through the window, chances are your dog isn’t getting that. Consider fitting in sunshades in the car, to keep the blazing heat off of your pets.

We all gotta’ keep hydrated, and that goes for dogs too. If you’re heading out on a long road trip – make sure you’ve got some water and a bowl. Don’t forget to also schedule in regular breaks so they can stretch their legs and do their business. But remember to clean it up, ay?

On the move?

We’ve told you how to keep your dog safe and comfortable when you’re on a road trip – but what if you’re not moving at all? Some owners think it's ok to leave their dogs in their car whilst parked if they leave a window open slightly or make sure there is some water in the car. We can assure you that this does not help. Leaving your dog in your car can be dangerous even if it’s only for a few short minutes. Dogs Trust state that under 20 minutes in a hot car can prove fatal to a dog should its body temperature exceed 41°c. If you do see a dog in distress in a parked car, call the police or the RSPCA 24-hour cruelty line on 0300 1234 999

There may be quite a few rules around this, but having a road trip with mans best friend is great – so it’s worth taking those extra precautions before you set off. We just want you and your pets to be safe, so don’t leave anything to chance. Follow these rules and have a fabulous trip!

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By Marmalade Author

Providing tips and advice for young drivers on all aspects of driving - from getting through the driving test to buying and running your first car.

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