In the UK, a cat or dog needs to be restrained inside the car when it is being driven under rule 57 of the Highway Code. I bet you didn’t know that! I didn’t. Knowing the rule possibly doesn’t make a great deal of difference to me or you because you probably almost automatically have your cat inside a cat carrier when transporting her. However, that might not always be the case and it is just possible that a copper could stop you and charge you.
It is nice therefore to know the Highway Code on this topic. And there’s an element of common sense in this when you think about it. If your cat or dog is in the back seat minding their own business but unrestrained and you hit something they’re going to be thrown forwards towards the windscreen at high speed, which might kill the cat and harm you or a passenger. An unrestrained cat or dog in a vehicle in an accident becomes a missile.
The rule 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.”
The rule hints at other potential problems with an unrestrained cat or dog in a car. A cat might get under your feet preventing you from operating the pedals. They might distract you to the point where you fail to take due care and attention of your driving and other traffic. An accident might ensue.
It’s allowed to restrain dogs by tying up their harness or lead. The most common method is to have a cage in the back of an estate car. That’s what we normally see. Cats are normally restrained in a carrier.
When you think about it, it makes sense on an equality basis as well. People have to restrain their infants in an infant seat in the back of the car so the same principle applies to a cat or dog; a member of the family. There is not a lot of difference between an infant and a companion animal in many ways.
A survey by Auto Trader found that around 30% of dog owners are unaware of the Highway Code regarding the requirement to restrain dogs. Almost 25% admitted that they don’t restrain the dog when travelling. About half of them didn’t know the rule.
Some pages on cats and car accidents
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