• What are the rules for driving with dogs in cars?

What are the rules for driving with dogs in cars?

How to travel with a dog in the car and understanding the law in the UK

When it comes to travelling in a car with your canine companion on board, there are rules and regulations to be aware of. Here in the UK, The Highway Code outlines rules about travelling with animals to ensure they are suitably restrained.

In this article explaining the rules for driving with dogs in cars, we highlight the best and safest ways to travel with your pooch, what the law is in the UK, and under what circumstances your dog can be left alone in a car.

Whether you regularly carry your dog in your own car, or are travelling with a dog in a hire car, it is important to follow the rules so you and your dog can enjoy the safest journey together. Read on to find out more… 

What are the rules for dogs in cars in the UK?

Rule 57 of The Highway Code states that when travelling with a dog in a vehicle, it needs to be suitably restrained during the journey. The reason for this is to minimise possible distraction to you as the driver, and to ensure that the dog doesn’t injure themselves, you, or other passengers on board should you need to stop suddenly.

A dog can legally be restrained in a car using an approved seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage (crate) or dog guard/boot gate. It is the drivers responsibility to ensure that a dog is safely restrained during the journey and it’s worth remembering that by not properly restraining your pet pooch, your car insurance could be void should you be involved in an accident. 

Do’s and don’ts for travelling with your dog in the car

The safety of you, your passengers and your dog is really important when it comes to car travel. To help you plan your journey safely, here are the do’s and don’ts of pet travel:

Travelling with a dog in the car DO’s 

Travelling with a dog in the car  DON’Ts

DO secure your dog using an approved method of restraint

DON’T allow your dog to travel unrestrained

DO turn the airbag off if your dog is secured in the front passenger seat

DON’T let your dog travel in the front passenger seat with the airbag on

DO always travel with water for your dog

DON’T travel without water for your dog

DO keep the in-car cabin temperature cool on hot days and warm on cold days

DON’T let your dog overheat or get too cold in the car

DO ensure you stop regularly on long journeys so your dog can stretch their legs, have a drink and go to the toilet

DON’T drive for long journeys without letting your dog have a break

DO make sure you travel with veterinary prescribed travel medication if your dog is prone to motion sickness

DON’T feed your dog just before you travel if they are prone to motion sickness

Is it illegal for dogs to be unrestrained in a car?

While it is legal to travel with a dog in the car, it is a requirement that they are properly restrained for the journey. It is not strictly illegal by law to travel in a car with a dog unrestrained, but if you were to be involved in an accident or pulled over by the police, depending on the circumstances, you could be fined or prosecuted for dangerous driving.

In the case of a road traffic accident, your car insurance company may not pay out if your dog was found to be unrestrained in the vehicle. Travelling with your dog in the car without it being suitably secured, could cause great harm to your beloved pet or other passengers should you be involved in a collision. 

Are dogs allowed in the front seat of a car?

A dog is permitted to travel in the front seat of a car in the UK, but only when suitably restrained by the likes of a seat belt harness and only when the passenger-side airbag is switched off. Additionally, the front passenger seat should be moved as far back as possible so the dog isn’t able to reach the dashboard or driver’s controls. 

Is it against the law to leave your dog in the car?

It is not against the law in the UK to leave your dog in the car, but it is strongly advised by pet charities and welfare groups not to do so - especially during the summer months. In a warning to dog owners, the RSPCA reveals that a dog can suffer from heat stroke in as little as six minutes. In-cabin car temperatures can quickly rise and result in your dog dying from an excessively high temperature.

Even leaving a gap in the windows or providing your dog with water while popping to the shop could have disastrous consequences. You wouldn’t leave your child in a car, so don’t leave your dog unattended in a hot car either.   

What should you do if you leave your dog in the car?

If it is an emergency or deemed absolutely necessary to leave your dog unattended in a car, then make sure this is for a very short period of time (under five minutes) and that it is not too hot nor too cold outside. Always leave windows open slightly so the dog has fresh air (but not enough so it can get out) and it’s a good idea to leave a note on your dashboard if possible.

Leaving a note will alert other drivers and passers-by that you are aware your dog has been left in the car for a short period of time. It is legal for passers-by to break a window or force entry into your vehicle should they believe the dog is in danger.

What is the best way to travel with a dog in the car?

If your car’s boot isn’t big enough to safely fit your dog in with the parcel shelf removed, then a seat belt harness is the best way to travel with your canine companion on the front or back seats. 

However, if you have a boot big enough to comfortably fit a dog, it may be preferable to safely secure them with a pet carrier or dog crate, or to fit an approved dog guard. Remember that if you travel with your dog in a crate or carrier, this will need to be safely secured by tie-down points so it doesn’t move around corners or should you need to brake suddenly. 


Car hire with your canine companion

Here at Rent Direct, we understand that hiring a car or van may mean your dog travels with you too. Our large and full-size cars have bigger boots to comfortably accommodate your canine companion, and our range of MPVs are ideal not just to carry up to seven people, but for pampered pooches too. Check out our definitive guide to rental car sizes to decide on the best option. 

While we don’t provide in-car dog restraints as standard, we do expect you to safely secure your dog when renting one of our vehicles. If you are unsure of the rules, speak to us about vehicle hire safety with your dog; we’ll be able to show you how to switch off the passenger airbag if your canine companion needs to travel in the front seat.