Dog in car

Pet Travel Safety

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Now that spring is officially here, it’s great to think we can get out and about more often and enjoy the longer days.

Of course, our dogs usually like to come too. But when you head off in the car on your way for a long walk in the countryside, or even just the school run, how much do you think about your dog’s safety?

For many of us, it seems the answer is ‘not much’. Surveys show that almost half of owners don’t restrain their pets in the car at all. And if we’re involved in an accident with an unrestrained pet, the consequences can be serious, if not fatal, for both your pet and your passengers in the car.

Your dog – the potential missile

We’ve all seen crash-test dummies not wearing seat belts flying through the cabin of a car. In a crash, your dog would do exactly the same. Surprisingly, there’s currently no law in Britain regarding restraining animals in the car, so it’s not illegal to have your German Shepherd travelling on the back, or even front seat, without a restraint.

But when we stop and think about the sheer impact this, or even a smaller breed, of dog could have on us or the passengers in our cars, it becomes obvious that dogs should wear a restraint for everyone’s safety. In fact, during an accident at 30mph it’s been shown that a dog’s body weight multiplies by 30 times. That’s a devastating missile.

Keeping your mind, and eyes, on the road

It’s not only during an accident that an unrestrained pet can be dangerous. Simply by being loose in the car, your dog (or cat) can be a significant distraction to you as you drive. We’ve all seen smaller dogs running around a moving car and jumping on and off the parcel shelf. And although this, in itself, isn’t illegal, if the police consider you’re being distracted and therefore driving without due care and attention, you could be issued with a fine or penalty points – in the same way as for mobile phone use.

Allowing your dog to travel with its head out of the window presents problems too. While they appear to be having the time of their lives enjoying the fresh air, dogs that travel like this frequently experience injuries to their eyes, nose and mouth from dirt, pollen and debris from the road.

In-car safety options

With so many compelling reasons to do so, it’s clear that having your dog adequately restrained in the car is essential. Depending on the size of dog, there are a whole variety of restraints to keep them not only safe, but also comfortable, even on long journeys. They largely fall into the following categories:

1.    Travelling crate or kennel

These are a great choice for a number of reasons. Firstly, in terms of keeping your dog restrained, they’re ideal as once the door’s secured, your dog is too. Secondly, should you be involved in an accident, your dog will be safely contained in the crate and not hurtle through the car (just bear in mind that the crate itself will need to be secured to the car, either by straps or a seatbelt).

Crates also add an additional layer of protection for your dog on impact, and – should a door or the boot open in the crash; your dog will remain safely contained.  And lastly, although crates can seem big, by giving your dog its own defined area in the car, you will actually free-up space for your own items, and no longer have to worry about hiding tempting treats in your shopping!

2.    Car harness

As with a seatbelt for humans, a specialist dog harness for the car offers you and your dog reassuring levels of in-car safety.

There are a wide variety of dog car-harnesses available; what they have in common is that nearly all of them use the car’s seatbelts to anchor to. So providing you’ve chosen the correct type of harness for your dog’s size and fitted it properly, as long as your seat belts are functioning, your dog should be as safe as a human passenger. Should you be in an accident, a harness with wide straps and a padded chest area will help reduce any injuries your dog suffers on impact.

3.    Dog guard

The more traditional option, which although does restrain your dog, also does come with some problems.

While your dog won’t be distracting you whilst in the boot, should you be involved in a rear-end collision – the most common type of accident –  your dog is right there in the area of impact, with no crate to protect them. Also, in this kind of accident, it’s likely that the boot will open, and unless you have used a lead to attach your dog to the interior of the boot or the guard itself, the chances of them running away in fright are high.

If you don’t already restrain your dog in the car, think carefully about which option is right for you to help you and your dog be as safe as possible on every journey.

Useful links:

The Highway Code https://www.gov.uk/rules-about-animals-47-to-58/other-animals-56-to-58

Gov.co.uk https://www.gov.uk/penalty-points-endorsements/endorsement-codes-and-penalty-points

Safedog http://safedog.co.uk/

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