Driving With Your Pets In The Car

With the long six weeks holiday ahead of us you might be thinking of travelling with your pets, but we want to ensure that this is done safely and within the law.

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It is always possible for your pets to travel with you in the car, but we must remember if they are not used to traveling it may be a difficult time for them so hopefully we can give you some tips to make it easier for everyone.

Driving With Your Pets In The Car & The Law

Research has shown that almost two thirds of UK motorists do not know that if you drive with an unrestrained pet in your car you could face a fine of up to £5000 and your car insurance could also be invalidated.

Rule 57 of the highway code states that ‘when in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you when you are driving or injure you, or themselves if you stop quickly’.

Although disobeying the highway code itself does not carry a direct penalty, if pulled over by the police and your pet is distracting you, you could be fined for driving without proper control or even careless driving, which is where the fines are occurred.

Suitable Restraints For Driving With Your Pets

There are a number of options available for restraining your pet whilst travelling in your vehicle.

Examples of suitable restraint for your pets could include:

  • Seatbelt harness
  • Pet carrier
  • Dog cage
  • Dog guard

We would also suggest that if using a dog guard that you also secure your dog on a lead or harness to prevent them jumping out when the boot is opened. This is particularly important in case you are in an accident and someone opens the boot who is unaware the dog is not restrained. It may prevent them getting hurt or causing further accidents if they try to run away.

Remember to make your pets carriers secure to stop them from moving if you turn sharp corners. If your pets are travelling on the front seat move the seat as far back as possible and remember to turn off the airbags to prevent them becoming hurt by them if you are involved in an accident

What To Do When Driving & Travelling With Your Pets

Planning is essential before any journey with your pet:

  • Plan where you are going. For longer journeys remember your pets will need to go to the toilet too, so arrange toilet stops for them to stretch their legs but also for you to clean out any carriers. Be prepared that your journey may take longer than normal when pets are involved to ensure they have long enough breaks.
  • Plan what you need to take with you
  • Plan where the local vets are when you reach your destination, just in case you need them in an emergency
  • Plan for any additional parasite control or any medication your pets might need for when you are away and ensure that their vaccines and flea and worm treatments are up to date
  • Ensure your pet is identifiable.
  • Take food and water
  • Keep them cool – use sunshades on windows, and open windows a little to allow a cool breeze to circulate
  • Plan for a short walk before you go to let them toilet before you leave
  • Plan a light meal for your pets before they travel
  • Ensure that your pets are well enough to travel. DEFRA (department for environment, food and rural affairs) has several recommendations assessing if animals are fit to travel
  • Do get new pets used to the car before travelling on long journeys – make the car a fun place to be and not stressful

How Do I Ensure My Pet Is Identifiable?

The best way is to have your pet microchipped as this is a permanent way of identification. You must ensure that you keep your details up to date with any change in telephone numbers and address. Linking mobile numbers to the microchip details is ideal when you are away from home for your pets to be reunited with you.

This has been law for dogs since April 2016 but we highly recommended it for cats too.

The Control of Dog Act also states that when a dog is in a public place it must wear a collar or tag with a minimum of your name, house name/number and postcode. It is your choice if you want to include their name or your telephone number or any other details e.g. I’m chipped, vets numbers etc.

What Should I Take With Me On Long Car Journeys With My Pet?

  • Food. Remember to take their own food to reduce the risks of tummy upsets. Don’t forget snacks for the journey
  • Water. Have plenty of water available for the car. Collapsible travel water bowls or travel water bottles are a great idea, remember dogs can lose a lot of water through panting
  • Bedding, for both the car and your destination. There is nothing like sleeping in your own bed and a few favourite toys to make it feel like home
  • Collars, leads and brushes
  • Toys
  • Towels – to keep them dry if they have been for a paddle!
  • Poo bags. It is your responsibility to clean up after your pets
  • Medicine. Remember to take enough medication for when you are away

My Pet Gets Travel Sick Or Stressed When Travelling. What Can I Do?

It’s really important to try and get your pets used to travelling from a young age and make them realise that the car is a fun place. This is easier said for dogs as a car journey often ends with a nice walk, whereas cats its either a trip to the cattery or the vets!

Here are some tips for making car journeys run smoother:

  • Get them used to the car and use their own bedding – always start with short journeys and gradually build it up or even just sit them in the car without going anywhere and give them a treat to let them know the car is fun!
  • Offer a small meal before travelling – a bigger meal may more likely make them feel sick and is worse to clean up if they do vomit
  • Secure cages/carrier to prevent excessive motion
  • Try letting them travel in different parts of the car as some may feel better on the back seat rather than the boot as long as they are secure
  • Keep them cool – keep the windows open slightly so cool air can circulate, use sun shades over the windows to prevent the full glare of the sun
  • Be aware of the signs and give them a break – whining, excessive drooling, restlessness, anxiety
  • Carry calming products. These can include: biscuits, tablets, sprays, collars, thunder shirt. These are products that are available over the counter and are either based on pheromones that help to reduce your pets stress levels or milk proteins to help them feel more relaxed. We are more than happy to give you advice on what products are available and what may be the most suitable for your pet
  • See a vet before long journeys – they may be able to prescribe a product such as Cerenia that is approved for the prevention of travel sickness in dogs. In extreme circumstances where travel sickness cannot prevented we may advise the use of anti-anxiety drugs but this must be discussed in a veterinary consult

What Not To Do When Travelling With Your Pet

  • This first big don’t is to let your pets loose in the car. This is not only because they can distract you when driving, but it also prevents them being injured in the case of an accident
  • We would advise you don’t leave your pets in the car unattended, especially on hot days even with window open. Temperatures can very quickly reach extreme temperatures
  • Don’t open windows entirely and allow dogs to stick their heads out. It is easy for their eyes to be damaged by small bits of dust or foreign bodies finding their way into eye, ears and noses. More seriously they could jump out of the window or be thrown out in the event of a crash
  • Don’t sit in the car with your pets on your lap as this is not an adequate form of restraint
  • Don’t have your pets on the front seat of the car unless you don’t have airbags or have turned them off. Airbags are designed to protect the lives of adult passengers, but can cause injury to small children and animals when deployed. There are some exemptions so check your specific vehicle

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