Five million dogs travelling unsafely this summer

Over a third of those who travel in the car with their dog, some 5.5 million people, do so without safely securing their pet reveals new research from Direct Line Pet Insurance.

As a result, dogs could travel a total of 490 million miles this summer in danger of injury, in the event of a collision or even during an emergency manoeuvre.

Half of dog owners who travel with their pets have said that this has led to a number of problems. One in five said their dog had vomited in the vehicle and one in seven said their dog had gone to the toilet while traveling.

From a safety perspective, 19% of owners have let their dog stick their head out of the window while in the car, 11% admit their dog has distracted them or another driver, while others have escaped from their restraint (10%).

When it comes to restraining dogs in cars, over a third of owners, over five million people, do not do so safely, choosing instead to either leave their dog loose in the back seat (14%), in the boot without a gate (8%), on someone’s lap (6%) or even unsecure on the front seat (5%).

One of the most well-known dangers to dogs in cars is being left alone in hot weather. However, despite this one in eleven (9% or 1.4 million people) dog owners who have taken their pet on a trip admit to having left them alone in the car on a hot day.

Madeline Pike, Veterinary Nurse for Direct Line Pet Insurance said: “It’s great that so many dogs are taken on car journeys and we expect that to rise this summer as staycations remain popular. But it’s also really important to remember to secure dogs safely in a car, not just for their own health and wellbeing but also to ensure they don’t distract the driver. Travelling with dogs isn’t always easy, so if you’re planning a long trip, make sure your dog is used to being in the car first, you have a suitable restraint for them and have planned regular stops. It is also vital that dogs are never left in a car on a hot day, as this can be extremely dangerous for them.”

Like people, pets need to be safely secured in the car when travelling. Rule 57 of The Highway Code states that: 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.

The research shows that young people are most likely to travel with their dog not safely restrained in a vehicle, with more than two fifths of people aged 18-34 not doing so when travelling in the car with their pet. Young people are also identified as the demographic most likely to take their dog with them on a holiday or day out, with 74% of dog owners aged 18-34 planning a trip this summer.

To ensure pets have stress-free and safe trips this summer, Direct Line has provided the following tips:

  • Invest in suitable safety equipment: There are many ways of safely and inexpensively securing a pet in a car. The most popular options are crates, gates and harnesses, all of which allow the pet some freedom of movement without posing a safety risk
  • Keep your dog cool: Heat exhaustion can be a serious threat to the health of your pet, so never leave them alone in a vehicle for any amount of time and always ensure they have access to fresh air. Installing shades on windows can also prevent strong sunlight heating up the car
  • Keep them safe: While it may look fun, you should never let your pet ride with their head sticking out of the window, as there is a chance that they could fall out of the vehicle or be struck by a passing object
  • Schedule frequent breaks on long journeys: Pets aren’t able to tell you that they’re thirsty or need a toilet break, so ensure that you’re able to safely stop at regular intervals to allow them to drink, go to the toilet and stretch their legs
  • Get your pet used to travelling: While many people will have travelled in a car with their pet when collecting them, without regular exposure to car travel pets can get nervous when going on a long journey. Wherever possible, make the car comfortable by bringing a favourite toy or blanket, and comfort your pet if they show signs of distress. Car sickness can be common, especially in puppies, so if this affects your pet try not to travel with them on a full stomach and aim to take longer, more frequent breaks on the journey