Whether it’s a trip to the park or to the vets, taking a pet in your car is a necessary part of life from time to time, especially if you have a dog. UK animal welfare law applies to the transportation of animals in vehicles, including pets, and owners are responsible for following appropriate rules and guidelines. Critically, the law states that pets should not be transported in a way that can cause unnecessary suffering or injury.
When it comes to using carriers, such as ferries or planes, owners are again responsible for ensuring their pet is fit to travel. The method of transportation (whether the pet stays in the vehicle or is carried in a special container) varies according to carrier. Places may need to be booked and the carrier should be advised beforehand if the pet is a guide dog.
Fitness to travel incorporates various aspects. Pets are usually deemed unfit to travel if they are ill or injured (excluding minor illnesses and injuries), are likely to give birth while being transported or have given birth in the last 48 hours, are new-borns and not travelling with their mother.
Pet owners need to plan the journey in the case of long trips, taking into consideration the animal’s size and comfort, and access to food, water and ventilation. Various further guidelines on ensuring your pet’s comfort are available from DEFRA. Critical points include that pets should have access to clean water at all times and not go without food for more than 24 hours. Animals should also never be left in strong direct sunshine or high temperatures and pet owners should regularly check for signs of overheating when transporting animals in hot or sunny conditions.
When it comes to insurance cover, there are a few key points. In the UK, larger dogs are allowed by law to travel loose in the car, but they should be suitably restrained so they cannot cause a distraction. Windows should be kept closed or window guards used, and dog-guards fitted in the back of cars (such as estates) if the dog travels in the boot. The Highway Code (Rule 57) states that animals can be restrained by seat belt harness, pet container, dog cage or dog guard.
Smaller animals should usually be carried in a container. The container should be positioned securely so it cannot move but where it is easy to access and is not exposed to strong direct sunlight. Containers should be a suitable size and be otherwise designed to ensure at the minimum a basic level of comfort.
Unsecured pets can be dangerous to the driver and passengers, as well as other road users. In the case of an accident, they could escape and be run over or cause another accident.
Pet owners should always be aware that getting in and out of the car in busy areas can be potentially tricky, and always keep a strong hold of their dog’s lead during these times.
There are a few points to consider when it comes to insurance cover. Pet insurance for dogs can include third party cover, for example, if the dog is responsible for causing an accident that damages a third party vehicle. Pet insurance will also take into account the conditions in which the pet was travelling in the case of any illness or injury to the pet.
If the pet is not suitably restrained and causes an accident, then it is likely that any car insurance or even provisional insurance policy will also take this into account. Rules and guidelines applying to animal transport and welfare should therefore be followed at all times.