Could travelling with your dog land you a £5k fine?
The festive period has arrived, which for most of us means long cross-country road trips to visit loved ones. However, for 31% of UK households, they also have their four-legged friends to think about.
While some will opt for kennels, most families will want to spend the Christmas break with their beloved canine companions. However, owners risk hefty fines and invalidating their insurance if they don’t follow the right rules when it comes to travelling with a dog – or indeed any pet - in the car.
But fear not, as Tom Preston, Managing Director at Hippo Leasing has put together some tips to enjoy a stress-free (and legal) drive home this Christmas…
Get your dog used to car journeys
If your dog isn’t used to travelling in the car, set time aside a few weeks before to introduce them to it gradually. Make sure to have treats on hand to reward them for good behaviour and to make the car as welcoming as possible, bring along a familiar blanket or a favourite toy.
If you know your dog is a particularly nervous traveller or suffers from motion sickness, have a word with your vet before you leave. They may be able to prescribe them some medication to help them relax and keep travel sickness at bay.
Preparation is key
Thinking about where you’re going to put your dog when you’re packing up the car is too late! Preparation is key to travelling safely and legally with your pooch.
Rule 57 of the Highway Code offers some paws for thought, stating:
“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.”
However, The Dogs Trust recently found nearly half of dog owners were unaware they may be breaking the law.
If your dog is going to be travelling in the boot of your car, it can be left to lay freely so long as it cannot climb into the passenger area – or if there is a strong built-in dog guard in-between. If your dog can climb over, you’ll need a travel cage.
If the boot is filled with presents and luggage, you can also restrain your dog by using a specially designed seatbelt or harness. It’s illegal to drive with a dog on the backseat without one, leaving you at risk of a £5000 fine, invalid insurance or worse, a badly injured pet or family member if you are involved in an accident.
Keep them away from the presents!
If travelling with beautifully wrapped gifts, you need to consider what – and who – goes where.
We recommend keeping your presents and your dog separate, as they are not a match made in heaven. The contents of your wrapped gifts can also be dangerous to pets if ingested, particularly silica gel patches, batteries or chocolate.
If you need valuable boot space for storage, a cage will protect both your dog and your presents.
Stop for regular breaks
If you’re travelling for longer than a couple of hours, it’s a good idea to make a pit stop to give your dog a comfort break and a chance to re-hydrate. A pop-up water bowl is perfect for this.
While your dog may be happy to snooze for the whole journey, dogs see the world primarily in terms of what it can smell, so frequent stops will stop them getting bored and restless.
It’s also an excuse to stretch your legs and stock up on hot drinks and snacks to keep your other passengers happy too!