Tips for driving safely with your pets

Travel sickness, dog-seatbelts, anxiety and space can be big problems when travelling with pets. It can be tempting to ditch the contraptions and medicines and just let your dog sit on your lap while you drive.

According to a recent survey by Opinium, two thirds (69%) of drivers have travelled with a pet in their car, but almost a fifth (19%) don’t secure them when driving and let it roam free in the vehicle. A further one in five (21%) admit to being distracted by their furry companion when driving.

However, as we all know, this is not safe and does not follow the Highway Code, which 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. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.” Abiding by the appropriate laws is important in protecting yourself and your pets from harm.

In addition, drivers who don’t restrain dogs and cats while on the move are not just breaking the law, they could also be invalidating their car insurance. That means if you are involved in a car accident, even one that is not a result of your dog being unrestrained, you could be liable for any damage to your car AND any other cars involved, not to mention any medical or other costs.

Some tips to remember when travelling with your dogs are:

• Always keep your dog secured. If your front passenger seat has an air bag, this is not a safe place for your dog to sit

• Keep some water and a bowl in your car

• Never leave your dog alone in the car – even with the window open, it can reach lethal temperatures inside

• Don’t let your dog put their head out the window. They may well enjoy it but it’s not safe as something could strike their head or cause an eye infection, particularly at high speeds

• Ensure they are on a lead before opening car doors to prevent them running into the road

• Consult a vet about medicating your dog before car journeys if they suffer from travel sickness

• Ensure they are wearing a collar. In the UK, the Control of Dogs Order 1992 states that any dog in a public place must wear a collar with the name and address (including postcode) of the owner engraved or written on it, or engraved on a tag. You can be fined up to £5,000 if your dog does not wear an identification tag.

• Keep the noise and temperature at a low and comfortable level

• Stop regularly for food, drink and toilet breaks for you and your dog

Similar ideas apply to driving with cats and other pets. Ensure they have a carrier and familiarise them with it before the journey, if possible. This will reduce their anxiety.

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