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Driving with your dog in the car could land you with a £5,000 fine

A dog in a car with its head hanging out of the front window is a common and amusing sight.

However, it may not be so amusing for the pet’s owners if the law catches up with them. They could end up breaking the law and end up with a substantial fine.

That is because, just like humans, animals are required to wear a seatbelt and not ensuring your pet wears one is a breach of the Highway Code, reports Chronicle Live.

It points out that if an animal moves about during a journey, it could trigger an accident and it also urges drivers not to put their pets in the front seat for the same reason.

Mark Tongue at Select Car Leasing reports: “Most dog owners will know they need to keep their pet suitably restrained when they’re in a car, as stipulated by the Highway Code.

“But many owners are left confused as to whether dogs are allowed in the front seat or not. It’s something of a grey area.

“Whilst not particularly recommended – dogs should generally be in the backseat or boot for their own safety.

“You should only ever have your dog by your side while driving if you’re able, and know how, to disable the front passenger airbag, as some vehicles don’t actually have an override function.

“Failing to disable the airbag could result in catastrophic injuries for a dog. An airbag is designed to provide protection for a human, not a canine, and the cushioning is simply in the wrong place.

“When an airbag deploys it does so with so much force it could even crush a dog cage.”

Mr Tongue adds if you are considering carrying your dog in the front of your car, be sure to move the seat as far back as it will go – minimising the risk of the dog striking the glovebox or windscreen during a collision.

“We’d recommend you don’t let your dog stick its head out of the window,” he explains.

“Not only does that potentially illustrate that the animal is not restrained properly, there’s also the obvious risk of its head coming into contact with something, like a bush or a tree, resulting in a bad injury.

“And make no mistake – if you don’t have your dog properly restrained, and it’s causing distraction, you could be prosecuted by the law.”

What’s the risk?

The risk is a fine of up to £5,000 for ‘careless driving’ as well as the risk of an accident on the road.

Rachel Wait, MoneySuperMarket, said: “While driving with your pet in your car – whether in the boot or on a seat – might seem like a harmless way of getting from A to B, the truth is you can risk invalidating your car insurance.

“If you’re in a prang with an unrestrained pet in your car, insurers may use it against you – regardless of whether it was as a direct result of the animal itself – so it’s worth being on the safe side and making sure ‘man’s best friend’ is properly restrained.”

What the law says

According to the Highway Code, unrestrained pets could cause accidents, near misses or emergency stops.

It 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.”

And while breaking the Highway Code doesn’t carry a direct penalty, if you’re deemed to be distracted on the road you can be fined £1,000 on the spot for ‘careless driving’.

This carries a maximum fine of £5,000 and nine penalty points depending on the severity of it.

In extreme cases, the incident could also result in a driving ban and a compulsory re-test.

The law recommends a seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or guard as ways of restraining your pet while driving.

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