Motor Insurance

How to travel safely with a pet in your car

If you are travelling with your pet, it’s important to bear in mind rules set out in the Highway Code. If not, you could face penalties and it could affect your car insurance if you need to make a claim. Here’s what to consider.

More than half of UK dog owners choose to travel with their beloved pets with nearly one quarter admitting they wouldn’t enjoy their holiday without their favourite pooch by their side. NimbleFins explains what to consider when driving with you pet to keep you both safe, and legal.

Can I travel with my pet in my car?

Yes, you can travel with pets in the car, but you must make sure they are restrained. Rule 57 of the Highway Code states:

“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.”

You can read more about the legality of driving with a dog or cat in your car here.

What are the penalties for driving with an unrestrained pet?

It’s worth remembering that although the Highway Code isn’t a list of legal obligations, there are consequences for not following the rules. For example, if your pet is unrestrained and you’re involved in an accident, you could face serious penalties for:

  • Careless and inconsiderate driving – this could earn you up to nine penalty points. You could also be given an unlimited fine and in the worst-case scenario, be disqualified from driving.
  • Dangerous driving – which could result in up to 11 penalty points, an unlimited fine and disqualification from driving. Depending on the situation, you could also face up to two years in prison.

Tips for safe car travel with your pet

With such serious consequences, it’s crucial to ensure your pet is safe and secure; here are some tips to keep your travels stress-free:

Choose a suitable restraint

You can choose from a range of different restraints so you should be able to find a method that suits your pet. Small animals like cats are best placed in a pet carrier that allows them to stand up, turn around, and lie down.

If you’re travelling with your dog, there are several options, including:

  • Dog crate – depending on the size of your dog and crate, crates can be put on the back seat, in the footwell or in the boot of the car. These are ideal if your dog is already familiar with a crate (for instance, if they sleep in one or use one in training). They also ensure your dog has its own personal space so doesn’t end up cramped in a packed car.
  • Harness – there’s a wide selection of dog harnesses you can choose from which you can then clip to your existing seatbelts.
  • Rear dog guard – if you’ve got a large dog or they like to sit in the boot, a guard will act as a barrier between them and the rest of the car. Rear dog guards can also help keep you, your passengers and your dog safe if you’re involved in an accident or have to carry out an emergency stop. Your dog should also be harnessed even with a dog guard in place.

Keep your pet hydrated

Make sure your pet has enough water throughout the journey. If you’re concerned about spillages, you can find no-spill style water bowls that are perfect for car travel.

Leave a good gap between eating and travelling

It’s recommended that you leave at least two hours between your dog’s last meal and travelling. Just like humans, dogs can get motion sickness and a bumpy car journey on a full stomach is probably not a good idea.

Check the temperature

If you don’t have air conditioning and you’re travelling in the height of summer, aim to travel early or late if you can, to avoid your car becoming too hot for your dog. If you do have air-con, check it’s not blowing directly onto your dog so they don’t get too cold.

Plus, don’t forget that dogs can die in hot cars so don’t leave them unattended in a stifling car in summer.

Never let your dog put their head out of the window

Dogs hanging out of car windows might look cute, but it can be dangerous, particularly if you’re travelling at some speed. Small stones could flick up into your dog’s face and hurt them, they could be tempted to jump out, and they could also be a distraction for other drivers.

Switch off the passenger airbag

If your pet pooch is keeping you company as a front passenger, make sure you turn the air bag off. Your car manual should set out how to do this.

How to make your pet comfortable in the car

If your pet has never travelled in the car, it can be a stressful experience so it’s wise to ease them in slowly if you can.

To familiarise your pet with car travel, start with short journeys—even if it’s just around the neighbourhood. This will help them get used to the movement, the sights and sounds of the car and traffic.

You can also help keep your pet calm by letting them travel with some of their favourite or familiar toys and blankets – particularly if you’re travelling a long distance. Also remember to stop regularly to let your pet stretch their legs and relieve themselves.

How does travelling with your pet affect car insurance?

Most car insurance policies will have clear rules when it comes to travelling with pets and will need you to ensure they are properly restrained.

If they aren’t and you have an accident and need to claim, your insurer could refuse to pay out as you haven’t kept to the conditions set out. This will mean you’re left to cover the cost of damage.

Search for great value car insurance

You shouldn’t have to pay over the odds for car insurance that gives you peace of mind. To bring you great value cover that doesn’t break the bank, we’ve teamed up with Quotezone to ensure you can choose a policy that fits both your needs and your budget. To find what you need, simply fill in one form to compare quotes from up to 60 insurers. Get started below.

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Erin Yurday

Erin Yurday is the Founder and Editor of NimbleFins. Prior to NimbleFins, she worked as an investment professional and as the finance expert in Stanford University's Graduate School of Business case writing team. Read more on LinkedIn.


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