1. ITV Report

Is your dog safe in the car?

Keeping dogs like Saffy harnessed in the car makes sense for both pet and driver. Credit: ITV West Country

As people take to their cars this August Bank Holiday, an animal charity claims half of all west country motorists who own dogs could risk a fine - and their pets' lives - by driving with their pets unrestrained.

The Dogs Trust says many drivers are unaware that it's against the Highway Code to travel with animals in the passenger seats without a harness. Offenders could be prosecuted for driving without due care and attention - which could mean a fine of £5,000 and points on your licence. Drivers could also have their car insurance invalidated.

The charity has started a campaign called the Houndaway Code to promote safer driving with canines.

Heading to the beach with your pooch? Make sure they're properly restrained in the car. Credit: ITV West Country
of people driving dogs in cars in Devon could breach the Highway Code by not restraining them
of drivers reach into the backseat to interact with their dog while at the wheel

Dogs are such an important part of people’s lives so it’s understandable that owners want to take them out and about with them.

However, our survey shows many people don’t know the safest way to travel with their dogs and some are even unwittingly breaking the law by letting their dogs roam around the car whilst they are on the move.

– Dr Rachel Casey, Director of Canine Behaviour and Research for Dogs Trust

The Dogs Trust has devised a 'Houndaway Code'

  • There's a legal obligation for dogs to travel safely and they must be secured and not in the front of the car.
  • Dogs should be secured within the boot with a guard blocking access to the car passenger interior or within a crate/cage securely positioned within the boot or, if you use a harness for your dog, ensure that it is appropriately sized and correctly fitted. The dog should travel on the back seat and the harness should be secured to the seat belt attachment
  • If your dog is getting used to car travel, place something that smells very much of you/your dog in with him to help him feel secure - blanket/bed/pillow cases etc. - as the smell of this can give comfort and reassurance
  • Ensure that your dog has plenty to drink so they don’t become dehydrated and do not leave a dog alone in a car.
  • Introduce the car gradually, making getting in and out and wearing the harness a positive experience before starting to travel.
  • If you use a harness for your dog, ensure that it is appropriately sized and correctly fitted. The dog should travel on the back seat and be secured to the seat belt attachment.
  • We advise securing a dog behind the front passenger seat and NEVER behind the driver in case they get hold of clothing etc. and cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle.
  • Make sure your dog gets used to the car gradually on varied trips, start on short journeys and finish at home so the dog has a positive association with the journey. It’s important to not just take them to the vets as they may develop negative associations with the car.
  • Train your dog to wait calmly before being asked to jump out of the car every time. This is important as it could be dangerous if he or she jumped out into a road with traffic, for example if you were to travel into a busy area or break down on a main road. Make sure they always get in out of the car in a controlled manner.
Credit: Dogs Trust
  • Watch Nick Smith's report on keeping your pets safe in the car - ably assisted by Miah from The Dogs Trust in Ilfracombe.