When you hit the open road, it feels great to have those that you care about most in the world beside you, and that can include your pets. Taking them on an exciting day out or going on holiday together can create some precious memories, but it also needs to be done carefully. Not only do you need to consider the health and wellbeing of your furry friend, but you also need to make sure that you are travelling within the law.
That is why Mudd-E have put together their top tips for travelling with your pet, as well as guidance on what the law says so that you can ensure that your travel arrangements stay legal at all times.
The law on travelling with pets
Whilst there is no law to say that you cannot travel with your pets, there are specific rules within The Highway Code on how you should do this. These laws have been put in place to protect the animal, the driver and passengers and any other road users.
The biggest concern when it comes to having an animal in the car is that it could cause some sort of distraction or obstruction to the driver which could lead to an accident or cause an injury to themselves or someone in the car.
Not only could they create an accident if they are not properly restrained, but they could also be catapulted into the back of a driver or passenger in the event of an accident, and in the case of a heavy dog, this could have the same impact as having a human sat behind you without a seatbelt on. It is for this reason that the law states that any animal in the car needs to be properly restrained.
You should also remember that any dog over the age of eight weeks must have a microchip and collar with the name and address of the owner in case they escape. From June 2024, cats will also need to have been microchipped by the time they reach 20 weeks.
Restraining an animal in the car
So, you know that you need to keep your pet ‘suitably restrained’ in the car, but what does this mean? Ideally, you should be looking at using a seatbelt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard, as these are considered to be the most suitable and safe ways to transport a pet. Choosing which one to go for will largely depend on the type of animal, their size, their temperament and how they feel about travelling.
Some dog cages tend to be quite large, and so will not necessarily be suitable for smaller cars and a barrier that doesn’t fit properly will not present much of a challenge for a small dog to wriggle under or around. As you might expect, it is not practical to try and restrain a cat or other small animal in a vehicle, and so the best option for them is a pet carrier.
This not only keeps them in one place, but the closed sides can also make them feel a little less disoriented – although you should make sure that the pet carrier is properly locked and secured in place.
If you are not sure what restraint is best for your pet, speak to your vet for advice.
We all want to be comfortable on a long journey, and the same is true of your animal, which is why pet beds are now such a popular choice. These provide a padded bed for the animal to relax in and can be included within a dog cage or on the seats to work with other types of restraints.
Not only will this help to keep your animal a little more relaxed, but it can also help to keep your boot or car seats free from pet hair, scratches or those little accidents that can happen.
Temperature is another big factor when it comes to comfort whilst travelling, as having it too high in the car can make an animal feel sick. Try to make sure that the temperature is kept cool, as you can put more layers on, but your pet cannot. Although it can be fun to see a dog hanging its head out of the window on the road, it is not a safe way to travel as the dog could make a bid for freedom, or they could be hit by any stones or debris thrown up by other vehicles, so make sure windows are only open a little bit.
You should avoid feeding your pet a big meal for at least a couple of hours before you travel as this can lead to them starting to feel travel sick. Try to feed them a small amount that will settle easily and give them plenty of time to digest it before they get in the car. If it is a particularly long journey, you might want to stop for a break. If your pet is getting hungry, then try to give them small amounts of food that are easy to digest so that they can remain comfortable.
One of the most important things you can do for your pet whilst travelling is to keep them hydrated. Many pet owners are tempted to withhold water in order to avoid any accidents in the car, but this will only lead to the animal becoming car sick and unwell.
There are some great bowls and bottles which are specifically designed for travel that will allow your animal to drink when they need to. Just make sure you factor in a few pit stops so that they can stretch their legs and relieve themselves – it might make the journey longer, but it will make it more comfortable.
Travelling with pets can be great if you are properly prepared. Make sure that they are safely and comfortably restrained and properly fed and watered, and everyone can set off together ready for a good time.