Driving with your dog: A guide to UK laws and safety measures

21 August 2023 - 4 min read
Dog wearing sunglasses sitting in car boot

Looking to take your dog on a road trip? If you’re about to put your pup in the passenger seat, ensuring their safety is a top priority. Our guide will help you understand the laws on dogs in cars in the UK, the importance of proper pet restraint, and tips for a safe and comfortable journey with your pet.

Understanding the UK dog laws for car travel

The Highway Code, under Rule 57, states that dogs or other animals must be suitably restrained so they can’t distract you while you’re driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly. Ignoring these laws for dogs in cars can result in penalties, including a fine of up to £5,000, points on your licence, and even court appearances.

Plus, if your dog is found to have caused or contributed to an accident, your car insurance and pet insurance could be invalidated. This is why it's essential to understand and adhere to the regulations for dogs in cars.

Preparing for car travel with dogs

Before embarking on a journey with your pup, it's important to ensure they’re comfortable and accustomed to car travel. Start with short trips around the block, gradually increasing the length of the trips. Make sure to reward them after each trip to create positive associations with car travel.

Dog sitting in car with a harness on

Choosing the right travel equipment for your pet is also important. For smaller dogs, a travel cage, crate, or carrier is best. For larger dogs, a harness or specially designed seatbelt is recommended. It's important to choose equipment that’s comfortable for your pet and fits properly. Ill-fitting equipment can cause discomfort and stress for your pet, and may not provide adequate protection in the event of an accident.

Tips for safe and comfortable car travel with dogs

Ensuring your pet's comfort during the journey is essential for a harmonious road trip. Add blankets and their favourite toy to carriers, cages, and crates to help them relax during car journeys. Also, try to maintain a calm and quiet environment in the car. A great playlist may be a good way to entertain your human passengers, but loud music or sudden noises can stress your pet out.

Dog sitting in a crate

Hydration and feeding are also important considerations during the journey. Ensure your pet has access to water throughout, especially on long trips. Also, avoid feeding them two hours before starting a journey to prevent travel sickness. If you're travelling for a long time, plan stops to feed your pet their regular meals.

On long journeys, you should also make regular stops to allow your pet to stretch their legs, enjoy some fresh air, and go to the toilet. This not only helps to keep your pet comfortable, but also helps to prevent travel sickness.

Protect your pet from direct sunlight and maintain an optimal temperature in the car. Never leave your pet in the car on hot days as they can overheat extremely quickly, which can be fatal. Use sun shades on the windows and air conditioning to keep the car cool.

Dos and Don'ts for car travel with dogs

Do always ensure your dog is properly restrained in the car. This isn’t just a legal requirement but also a safety measure. A properly restrained dog is less likely to distract the driver or get injured in the event of an accident.

Don’t do anything that could be harmful or dangerous, such as letting your dog stick its head out of the window or leaving them alone in the car. These behaviours can put your dog at risk of injury or illness.

Do prepare yourself for emergencies and unexpected situations. Pack a first aid kit for your pet and have a plan in place in case of a breakdown or accident. This includes having the number of a 24-hour vet on hand, as well as any medication your pet might need.

Understanding and adhering to the laws on dogs in cars in the UK is crucial for the safety of your pet and to avoid potential legal implications. As a responsible pet owner, it's your duty to ensure your pet's safety at all times, including when travelling in a car. Remember, a safe journey is a happy journey for both you and your pet.

At ManyPets, we understand the love and concern you have for your pets. We offer comprehensive dog insurance that covers a wide range of situations, including accidents and illness. If you’re travelling further afield with your pet, our Complete policy also includes cover for taking your pets abroad.

Scarlett White
Senior Copywriter

Scarlett is an experienced copywriter who’s worked within a variety of industries, including health, beauty and interiors. Before joining ManyPets as Senior Copywriter in 2022 to focus on pet health, she held in-house copywriting roles at MADE.COM and Liz Earle Beauty Co. She has a penchant for puns, a love of dogs and a degree in English Literature.