Dog Car Safety

One in four motorists ‘break the law' by not restraining their dogs in the car 

RAC urges drivers to ensure safety of cats and dogs on the move

More than one in four (27%) dog-owning motorists may unwittingly be breaking the law when it comes to transporting their pets by not keeping them restrained when their vehicles are on the road, new research has found*.

The RAC Pet Insurance study also revealed that 4% of pet (2% dog and 2% cat) owners have had an accident, or a near miss, as a result of a cat or dog being loose in their car.

According to the Highway Code dogs or other animals** should be suitably restrained in a vehicle so that they don’t distract the driver or injure them if the vehicle stops quickly. Official advice from the RSPCA is that dogs are both secure and comfortable during transport.

While the majority agree that it is a hazard to allow a dog to be loose in a vehicle, 28% said they would let their dog move freely, even in a vehicle full of luggage. Also of concern is that 21% usually leave their dogs unsecured on car seats while 6% let them travel in passenger footwells.

Of those who do secure their dogs in transit on the road, a third (34%) restrict their animals to the boot, less than a quarter (24%) use a pet seatbelt or harness, and just 15% transport their dogs in a cage or carrier.

As many as 78% of dog owners travel with their dogs in the car whereas cat owners do not tend to drive with their cats as much, with only 50% saying they ride with them.

Cat-owning motorists, however, are seemingly more safety conscious as 92% of those surveyed said their felines were kept in a secure carrier when travelling by car. And, 96% said they would never consider letting their cat loose in the vehicle.

RAC Pet Insurance spokesman Simon Williams said: “As a nation of dog and cat lovers it is surprising that we seem to give so little consideration to their safety when they are transported in vehicles. Unsecured pets in moving vehicles are a real danger, not only to the driver and passengers, but to themselves in the event of an accident or if the driver has to brake suddenly.

“Our research suggests that a sizeable amount of people are prepared to take a risk and leave their dog unsecured, and, worryingly, that more than one in 10 (13%) do not actually consider it to be a driving hazard.
“While pet owners may feel they know how their dog behaves in the car, nobody can predict what might happen round the next corner or how a dog would react in or after an accident. The best way to ensure the safety and security of everybody in a vehicle when travelling with a pet is to make sure it is properly restrained.”

For pet owners looking to ensure the safety of their dog or cat in the car, the RAC has just launched an improved and expanded range of its popular and market-leading pet travel products.

Together with leading pet manufacturer Pet Brands, the RAC has built on the range – first launched seven years ago after identifying a gap in the market for pet travel safety products – so dog and cat owners have a wider choice of quality pet transport products to choose from.


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. Breaking the Highway Code does not carry a direct penalty, motorists could still be pulled over for driving without due care and attention.

The maximum penalty for this is a maximum fine of £2,500 and nine penalty points and could see you need to take another test.

Carrying an animal in a car is also law under the Welfare of Animals (Transport) (England) Order 2006 which states: “You must not transport an animal in a way that causes, or is likely to cause, injury or unnecessary suffering to that animal.”