Legal i

Don’t let your canine put you in the dog house

Temperatures are plummeting, and rather than walk to the shops, itís much easier (and warmer) to simply jump in the car. If youíre a dog owner, is it a good idea to take them along for the journey with you?  Dogs, like their human best friend, are accustomed to having a seat in the car, but are you creating unnecessary risk by doing so?


Example scenario:


Youíre driving with Rover in the back seat. The window is open a little to give the boy a little air and all is well. Suddenly your loveable-Labrador spots a cat through the window and its canine instincts kick in to chase it. What started out as a peaceful journey has escalated to a scene of near-chaos as Rover is barking, hurling slobber all over your interior, whilst trying to jump through the two centimetres of open window.


The most common reaction may be to do some barking of your own, issuing firm commands to remind Rover who is boss and how he should behave, whilst doing your best to stay focused on the road ahead. It may be tempting to turn and face the dog to try and command its attention, but this means taking your eyes away from the carriageway. This is especially tricky during the cold season with notoriously difficult conditions.  


Dividing your attention between the road and your dog could result in any number of offences being committed, ranging from speeding to dangerous driving, which is more than enough to take the smile off your face. 


What to Do?


No dog wants to be burdened with a guilty conscience for getting you locked up, so if your dog decides to get a bit rowdy during a journey, the safest thing to do is pull over to settle the dog; particularly if you are alone. You should remember to pull over only when it is safe to do so and adhere to the usual precautions (indicating etc). This may sound obvious, but it can often be the ìusually-routineî precautions that are neglected when you lose concentration. 


My concentration is unshakeable, so I’ll be fine… right?


Unfortunately, no. You must consider other road users and the level of distraction your vehicle and dog may be causing them. Legislation says you may be committing an offence when driving a vehicle that is in some way causing a distraction or a danger to others. In any situation where there is a question mark over the standard of driving or level of distraction, the best thing to do is think: ìHow does this look to the driver behind me?î. If you think it looks bad, pull over!


How to Avoid the Dog-House


Even for those of you with dogs that are really Crufts rosette winners, it is never advisable to drive your vehicle with the dog alone. It is preferable to have someone in the car with the dog to help keep it calm or ensure its attention is occupied, particularly with younger animals. If you have no choice but to take the journey alone, then consider giving the dog something to keep it occupied ñ its favourite chew toy perhaps? ñ and invest in a robust harness that can keep Rover securely in place on the back seat.


If neither of the above options is possible for you, then whilst it is not illegal in itself to drive with a dog in the car, you must be extra vigilant at all times, and ensure that the dog does not put you in a position where you could end up falling foul of the law. 

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