I recently heard a story featuring a car journey, an unsecured dog and an electric window switch; put these 3 elements together and the potential for catastrophe doesn’t bare thinking about. Thankfully, quick thinking and fast reactions prevented this tale from realising its scary potential.
Since hearing of this incident, I’ve noticed something that I hadn’t realised was quite so prevalent; dogs are being transported insecurely on Britain’s roads, putting the dog, the owner and others at risk.
Here’s our guide to transporting you dog safely….
Transporting an animal in the UK is subject to certain laws and regulations.
‘No person shall transport any animal in a way which causes or is likely to cause injury or unnecessary suffering to that animal.’
In addition to this
‘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 if you stop quickly’.
This means that your dog must be transported in a way the will cause it no harm and will reduce the level of harm inflicted in the event of an accident. It must also be restrained from interfering with your driving and remove the risk of injury to passengers in the event of an accident.
The RAC Pet Insurance study of 2014 revealed that 4% of pet owners have had an accident, or a near miss, as a result of a pet being loose in their car. 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. Also of concern is that 21% usually leave their dogs unsecured on car seats.
My observations would suggest that these are very conservative figures. This isn’t surprising as many owners wouldn’t want to admit to endangering their pets or breaking the law. Many are simply unaware of how to abide by these laws and regulations fully.
The remainder of this article covers some of the options available to dog owners for securing their pets whilst in a vehicle. Your decision will depend on vehicle type, budget and personal preference; here are a few options available on the market today.
Vehicle Pet Crates
Vehicle crates offer the most secure method of transportation, provided that it is sturdy and secured in place.
By placing your dog in a crate you remove any risk of it interfering with the driver and of it entering the passenger area in the event of an accident; it will however still hit the sides of the crate in the event of an accident, but it’s travelling distance will be relatively small.
You should choose a crate that can be secured with straps or bolts; it’s size will depend on the size of your dog. Your dog should be able to stand up and comfortably turn around. To increase comfort you can add a non-slip cushioned mat.
The negatives associated with crates usually relate to their cost, size, weight and the time taken to fit and remove them.
Car Pet Cages / Barriers
Pet car cages and barriers offer all of the same benefits as car crates, but the negatives are extenuated.
Your dog will not be able to interfere with the driver’s attention and will be secured from being projected through the passenger cabin in the event of a crash. There is however more space to travel inside a cage in the event of a crash; this will increase the risk of injury.
As with pet crates, you should choose a crate that can be secured with straps or bolts; it’s size will depend on the size of your dog. Your dog should be able to stand up and comfortably turn around. To increase comfort you can add a non-slip cushioned mat.
Once again, their size and time taken to fit and remove can be seen as a negative.
Smaller dogs may be transported in pet carriers on short journeys. These offer the same benefits as a car crate, providing they are sturdy and crash tested.
These carriers offer the benefit of being movable and lower in cost than a crate, but should only be used for small dogs. You should choose a carrier that can be secured with straps, harnesses or seat belts. Your dog should be able to stand up and comfortably turn around. To increase comfort you can add a non-slip mat.
Dog Safety Harnesses
Dog harnesses attach your dog to a fixed point in your car to prevent him/her from interfering with the driver. A good dog harness will also prevent your dog being propelled from it’s seat in the event of an accident.
A dog harness system is a good choice for those with small cars, saloon cars or those who do not wish to fill their vehicle with hardware. These systems aren’t as secure as a crate or cage, but typically cost less.
You should choose a harness with the correct rating for your size/weight of dog.
Making the Right Decision
Each of these restraint systems have their own pros and cons; what is suitable for one owner may not be suitable for another. But there are consistent concerns and checks for each.
- You should always check the suitability of each option for your dog and your vehicle.
- The variety in quality and suitability in all of these product ranges is vast – from poor to excellent. You should spend time researching them and reading reviews.
- You should research how any particular product has rated in crash tests for dogs of the same weight as your own. If a manufacturer is unable to give such information, it is prudent to assume that tests have not been completed and that the product may not be a suitable restraint in the event of an accident.
- You should weigh and measure your dog before purchasing any of the products to ensure the correct size/style is purchased.
- These systems should be fitted by an expert where possible.
- These systems should be regularly monitored for wear and tear and continued suitability.
More Safety Considerations
In addition to restraining your dog you should:
- Assess if your dog is fit to travel.
- Ensure that the dog has adequate ventilation.
- Ensure that the dog is shaded from direct sunlight.
- Monitor your dog for signs of overheating.
- On long journeys, ensure that the dog has regular access to water.
- If transported in the passenger cabin apply any child safety systems e.g. window locks, child safety locks, fit window guards.
- If transported on the boot of a hatchback, SUV, van ensure that back doors are fully closed and cages or crates do not contact the windows or doors.
- Never leave your dog unattended in a car.
Information provided by the government regarding the welfare of dogs during journeys can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/69549/pb10308-dogs-cats-welfare-060215.pdf
Contribution by Matthew@Heppiness