Dog owners issued warning over fines for breaking Highway Code driving rules

Dog owners are being warned about the rules of driving with a pet in their car
Dog owners are being warned about the rules of driving with a pet in their car -Credit:Liverpool Echo

Dog owners who drive with their pets in their car are being warned about fines they could face for flouting Highway Code rules.

According to a new study, three-quarters of dog owners are planning to take them away on a holiday with them in 2024. But whether they're staying in the UK or heading further afield, drivers could face penalties if they don’t prioritise the safety of their dog or other pets when driving.

Now car insurance experts at Compare the Market have highlighted the rules of the road that pet owners need to follow, and they’ve also provided some top tips for driving with pets. Under rule 57 of The Highway Code, animals must be suitably restrained at all times when in the car. This is so that they don’t distract the driver, reports the Liverpool Echo.

Failure to comply with this rule could see drivers facing a charge of careless and inconsiderate driving, which could lead to an unlimited fine and three to nine points on their licence. And if a pet isn’t restrained and causes an accident, drivers may find that their car insurance provider refuses to pay out. Below are five tips for driving with pets and keeping everyone safe.

Use a crate or carrier

One of the best ways to keep pets safe in the car is to put them in a crate or carrier. It needs to be well-ventilated, allow for enough room for the pet to stand up and turn around, and also should be strapped in so it doesn’t move around.

Different animals might also have slightly different needs. For dogs, it’s important that they’re able to see their owner out of the carrier to reduce their anxiety. Cats and rabbits will want their favourite items in their crate to make them feel safe.

Buy comfortable restraints

For dogs in particular, using a specialised harness or seat belt can be an alternative way to keep them safe and restrained while in a vehicle. These will allow them to partially move and even sit upright. Drivers just need to make sure they are restrained enough so they aren’t able to hang their heads out of the window, as dust or debris can fly into their eyes, and they are more at risk of serious injury.

Never leave your pet alone in a vehicle

Even if it doesn’t seem that hot outside, cars can heat up quickly, especially when in direct sunlight. Animals don’t have the same ability to regulate their bodies as humans do, so parking in the shade or cracking the window isn’t enough.

Bring food and necessities

Drivers need to make sure they pack for their pets too, thinking about things like food, bowls, lead, poo bags, and medication — plus extras in case of emergencies. It’s also really important to keep pets hydrated. Drivers must make sure water is easily accessible for their pets, and if they’re worried about spills, there are specialist bowls available that are designed to be used in cars.

Check on your pet regularly and make exercise stops

Motorists should also try to make regular stops so they can check their pet is doing okay, and keep an eye out for signs of overheating or car sickness, such as heavy panting. Regular stops are also a good chance for pets to get some exercise, and lots of motorway service stations have grassy areas where pets (and owners) can stretch their legs.

It’s important to note, however, that rule 56 of The Highway Code states that dogs should not be allowed to walk on a road on their own. If motorists do stop to stretch their pet’s legs, they must make sure to keep them on a short lead at all times when walking on a pavement, road, or path.