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Do dogs need to wear a seat belt in a car?

Jack Russell dog in a car with a seat belt

Should your dog be wearing a seat belt in a car? Let's find out

© Eva_blanco - Shutterstock

A seat belt decreases the risk of injury in a car accident. If you are planning on travelling with your dog in a car, you should know how to keep your pet safe.

By Emilie Heyl

Published on the 24/08/2021, 17:00

The car is a simple and safe means of transport for a dog. It’s less stressful for the animal as you can stop whenever you and the dog need to. In fact, you should stop every two hours to let your dog go out for a walk, play, stretch, drink water, do its business (make sure you bring dog poop bags with you). So, if you’ve decided to travel with your four legged friend in a car, that’s a good choice.

In addition, most dogs love to ride in a car, as long as they have been used to it from a young age. Now, with that being said, it is really important, whether it is a short or long trip, to keep your pet safe. One way to keep your pet safe and secure while driving in a car is to put a seat belt over your dog. Here is everything you should know about dogs seat belts and tips on how to keep your pet safe in a car.

Do dogs need seat belts?

It isn’t a legal requirement to put a seat belt on your dog in a car. Now, with that being said, having a dog move around in a car freely could be really dangerous and it is best to keep your dog restrained while travelling. Using a seat belt is one option.

A dog seat belt presents itself like a harness. First, put the harness on your dog and make sure it isn’t too tight for him. Then, place your dog on the car seat, slide the car seat belt through the dog’s harness loop and buckle your dog in. ​Adjust your dog's seat​ ​belt so it's secure and comfy.

Are seat belts for dogs required in the UK?

Dogs wearing a seat belt in cars isn’t a legal requirement. Although it isn’t mandatory it is highly recommended to secure your dog when travelling in a car. As Rule 57 of the Highway Code 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”. 

Breaking the highway code doesn't necessarily mean you will receive a penalty, but, if you aren’t lucky, the police could pull you over and give you a fine for driving without due care and attention. A fine that can go up to a maximum of £2,500 and nine penalty points.

How should I transport my dog in the car?

Do you dream of taking your dog everywhere: on vacation, on weekends, by the seaside or on a shopping trip? This is a really good idea and we are sure your dog would love it! But it is really important that the transport by car goes smoothly and in safe conditions.

In the event of an accident (which we really don’t wish of course, always be careful on the road!), your dog could quickly become a projectile and this is just as dangerous for him as it is for you. The law is clear on this: When in a vehicle, dogs and other animals should be restrained when you are driving so that they cannot distract or injure you or themselves if you stop quickly. You have three possibilities to transport your dog:

Dog guard: It is often used when you have a large dog. If you wish to put your dog in your boot, you can use a guard dog between the boot and the rear passengers seats. This solution enables your animal to move around without bothering you.

A harness or belt: This system consists of attaching your dog to the seat belt with their harness. It is often used for dogs who are relatively calm in the car and do not move a lot. If your dog is rowdy in the car, he may become entangled or even injured himself.

A pet carrier, cage or crate: Most of the time, it is used for small to medium sized dogs (or large size if you have a car that allows you to accommodate a large transport carrier). It is certainly one of the most suitable solutions for the safety of your dog. In addition, they are essential if your dog is not comfortable in the car, as he will feel more secure in his crate.

Travelling with your dog by car: How to keep your pet safe

Reminder of the rules to be observed in the car:

  1. Take a break every two hours. Not only will this be beneficial for you but for your dog as well. Always put your dog on a leash.
  2. Do not let your dog’s head stick out of the window as this could cause eye and ear problems.
  3. Place your pet comfortably in your vehicle. Small or medium dogs can be left in a carrier or attached with a harness or seat belt. For medium to large to giant dogs, you can place them in the boot and use a dog guard to separate the boot from the passenger's seat.
  4. When you open the door, be careful your dog does not run away.
  5. Never leave your pet in your vehicle in the sun, even if the windows are open. The temperature can quickly reach over 50 ° C: your animal could suffer from heatstroke which can be fatal!
  6. Make sure your dog has water.
  7. To prevent your dog from vomiting in the car, it is best not to give your pet anything to eat two or three hours before departure. Protect your car seats just in case, accidents happen.
  8. Under no circumstances should you put your dog in the closed compartment boot of a car, where it could suffer from claustrophobia or perish asphyxiated by the exhaust gases.

Veterinarian's advice for travelling by car with your dog

Doctor Noémie Tommasini, Director and Instructor at the Higher School of Veterinary Aid - Institut Bonaparte in Paris, shares with you some valuable tips when travelling in a car with your dog:

1) For your dog and your own safety, do not leave your pet free in the vehicle. Indeed, your dog risks injuring himself or could cause an accident if you have to break urgently. That’s why, if you put a seat belt or harness on your dog, or you place him in a transport cage or use a dog guard if your dog is in the boot, you are protecting your four legged friend and yourself!

2) Get him used to the car gradually. Start by going for short trips first and congratulate him every time. And remember, your dog can feel it when you are stressed, so stay calm.

3) Every time you go on a break and you stop the car, put on his collar and hold his leash firmly so that your dog does not escape and run away on the road.

4) Never leave your dog alone in the car, even if the car is in the shade and you’ve kept the windows open. Your four legged friend could suffer from heatstroke.

A car trip with your dog is possible! Don't let your pet move freely in the car, make sure he is safe and secure. And above all, never leave your best friend alone in a car!