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.

The range, which is available through RAC Shop pet travel section and a select number of pet wholesalers and retailers, comprises 33 additional travel safety and outdoor accessories, extending the range to 57 items. Customers can choose from a Standard RAC product or pay a little extra for slightly higher quality Advanced premium products.
Paula Boyden, veterinary director at Dogs Trust, says: “It’s important that when you are taking your dog on the road in a vehicle that they are travelling in a safe and comfortable way. There are many ways in which this can be done, so that the journey is a smooth experience for both dog owner and the dog themselves.”
Below are our some Dogs Trust top tips, whatever the time of year:

  • Secure your pet – make sure your dog is secure and comfortable on a journey for their own safety and so they cannot distract you. They should be fitted with a correctly sized harness or positioned within a travelling crate or container
  • Never leave pets alone in cars – don’t leave your dog alone in the car. Even if it seems cool outside it can become very hot very quickly. Parking in the shade and/or keeping the windows down does not make it safe!
  • Keep pets cool – make sure you keep your dog as cool as possible when driving. Avoid travelling during the heat of the day, use sun blinds on the windows and consider opening a window a little to allow a cooling breeze to circulate in the vehicle
  • Stop en route to give pets a drink – make sure you have a supply of water and know where you can stop off en route for water breaks. Dogs are not able to cool down as effectively as humans so could suffer from heat stroke and dehydration very quickly
  • Allow pets to adjust to travelling – allow your dog to become familiar with car journeys by ensuring they have positive experiences over a number of short trips before embarking on a long journey
  • Plan journeys and routes carefully – plan your journey time and route carefully as you'll need to stop at regular intervals to exercise your pet
  • Consider suitable pet destinations – consider your pet with regards to your destination. Busy environments, such as bustling city centres or loud carnivals and public events are not always suitable for dogs as they can get distressed
  • Feed your pet in advance of travel – feed your pet no sooner than two hours before a long journey to ensure that your pet does not have a full stomach when travelling
  • Always have food at the ready – take a supply of your dog’s usual food in the event that you get stuck in traffic or have a breakdown
  • Always have a harness or lead at the ready – keep the dog’s harness or lead close to hand in case you need to get out of the vehicle
  • Do not let dogs hand head outside cars – Dogs Trust advises that owners shouldn’t allow their dog to hang their head out of the window while they are moving as this could be potentially dangerous for the dog as well as distracting for the owner
  • In an emergency – if you see a distressed dog in a vehicle please call 999, or either the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999 or the Scottish SPCA on 03000 999 999

Real life story
Pet owner Matthew Evans was involved in a multi-car accident on the motorway whilst travelling last summer on a camping holiday at the seaside with his four-year-old son and his dog.


 
Matthew said ‘Our dog Barney is a German Short Haired Pointer. He is our prince and we worship the ground he walks on. We never really understood the importance of pets being restrained in the car with a safety harness or crate until we were involved in a pile-up on the motorway and Barney got hurt!
“Barney damaged his paw after falling forward from the back seat down into the footwell. He was sad whilst it was bandaged up as he couldn’t put any weight on it. Our vet told us we were lucky as he has seen much worse car safety accidents with pets.
“Just like we strap our four-year-old little boy into his car seat, we don’t ever set off in the car now without Barney’s travel safety harness or crate.”
Ends
If you are a journalist and would like further information, please contact:
 
RAC@brayleino.co.uk / 0117 964 6664
Simon Williams: 0161 452 4242 / 07725 822107 / simon.williams@rac.co.uk
Notes to Editors
*Research carried out on www.rac.co.uk among 1,622 UK residents between November 2013 and January 2014
** www.gov.uk/rules-about-animals-47-to-58/other-animals-56-to-58 – 3. Other animals (56 and 57)
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