Calls for owners to use seat belts as one in four admits risking the life of their dog when travelling

Vets at the UK’s leading provider of pet emergency care are calling on dog owners to use special harnesses or carriers when transporting their pets.

There has been a spate of cases recently in which dogs have been injured while travelling in cars, including several fatalities. Now small animal emergency specialists Vets Now are urging dog owners to think twice before letting their pets roam free in the car.

Laura Playforth, head of veterinary standards at Vets Now, said: “There’s a reason it’s a legal requirement for people to wear seat belts in cars.

“Motorists have a responsibility to ensure the safety of everyone inside their vehicle, including animals, because in a crash not only could their pet be seriously injured but they could also be thrown forward hurting other passengers.

“Some of the tragic cases our emergency vets have seen recently may have been avoided had dogs been properly secured.”

Image of a dog car seat for Vets Now article on dog car harness
Our vets are calling on dog owners to use special harnesses or carriers when transporting their pets

Our nationwide network of clinics and pet emergency hospitals see around 70 dogs a week who have been injured in road traffic accidents.

While most of these result from cars hitting dogs, there have been several cases of dogs being injured while travelling in cars.

In one tragic case in Harrow, north-west London, an unrestrained dog died in our clinic from his injuries after being flung through a car windscreen.

In another in Nottingham, a dog suffered serious injuries when he was propelled at force from the back of the car to the front during a minor collision.

A recent survey of more than 4000 pet-owning motorists found one-in-four admitted to driving with unrestrained pets.

Around 2% also reported being involved in a crash or near miss as a result of a dog being loose in their car.

It’s claimed that a medium-sized dog, such as a spaniel, would be thrown forward in a 30mph accident with a force equivalent to that of a baby elephant. This could put the dog at serious risk of death and also any drivers or passenger who get in their way.

Laura Playforth added: “Even dogs who are well behaved in cars should be restrained in a harness or carrier.

“Owners of bigger dogs can buy harnesses that attach to the seat belt while pet carriers are a good idea for smaller breeds.

“People who drive hatchbacks or estate cars also have the option of guards although dogs should still be restrained to prevent injury in a crash.”

Image of dog hanging out car window for dogs in cars article on Vets Now website
Vets have witnessed dogs suffer horrific injuries while hanging out of car windows

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According to the Highway Code, motorists must ensure “dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so that they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop too quickly”.

While disobeying the Highway Code isn’t technically illegal, drivers could be fined up to £1000 for driving without proper control if their pet distracts them.

This rises to £5000 and nine penalty points if the case goes to court and they are found guilty of failing to drive with due care and attention.

Insurers have also warned they may not pay out if dog owners fail to restrain their pet in a dog car harness and they inadvertently cause them to have an accident.

Vets Now’s out-of-hours clinics and pet emergency hospitals are open seven-days-a-week, to treat any pet emergencies that may occur. All have a vet and vet nurse on site at all times.