A study by RAC Pet Insurance has found that 27% of respondents have broken the law by driving their pets without properly restraining them. The Highway Code says that pets should be restrained while being driven, and it is possible to get arrested for driving without due care and attention if a pet distracts the driver.
The RSPCA recommends using a harness or other restraints so that the dog is both comfortable and safe, even if the car has to stop abruptly. Head of the ISPCA, the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said that “some dog breeds… pose a serious risk”. Despite the potential risk, if drivers do not cause an accident or injure somebody, then it is unlikely that they will be prosecuted or penalised because there is not, strictly speaking, legislation against taking pets without harnesses.
Research was undertaken by RAC Pet Insurance, so is likely to be made up of pet owners, so results may be swayed in that direction. However, 27% of respondents said that they had driven while their pet was unrestrained and 4% said that they had an accident or been involved in a near miss as a result of their pet distracting them from driving. It is not uncommon to see dogs hanging out of car windows.
According to reports, it isn’t just dogs that are being left unrestrained, either. Cats are also being put at risk, and are more likely to cause distraction, although it is less common for cats to be transported by car. A spokesperson for RAC Pet Insurance said that it was surprising, for such a nation of pet lovers, that drivers are so willing to put their animals’ lives at risks.
Many drivers will remember adverts extolling the benefits of rear passengers wearing seat belts; adverts that highlighted the force of a small child when involved in an accident. Large dog breeds pose a similar threat, and drivers are always advised to ensure that any load, whether living or not, is properly restrained and that it will not cause an accident.