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Paws for thought…. avoiding road accidents and injury with dogs and other pets

Paws for thought…. avoiding road accidents and injury with dogs and other pets

There's no doubt that the UK is nation of animal lovers. More than half of the adult population own a pet, according to the PDSA's most recent Paw Report 2020, and it seems that dogs are the most popular choice, with around 10.1 million pet dogs living in the UK.

As we ease out of lockdown and start to make journeys and travel again, we take a look at some important welfare and safety issues for pet owners to consider. Accidents will always happen, but there are steps you can take to prevent accidents from happening in the first place - or at least reduce the impact they can cause.

What guidance is there for travelling with dogs and other pets in cars?

The Highway Code requires dogs and other animals to be suitably restrained so that 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 (Rule 57).

While breaking the Highway Code is not an offence in itself, if you allow your dog to distract you by travelling with your dog unrestrained, and you are spotted by the police or you are involved in an accident, you could be fined up to £5,000 for driving without due care and attention.

If you are involved in such an accident it could also invalidate your motor insurance.

It is important to also bear in mind that if you are involved in an accident, an unsecured dog will be thrown inside the vehicle with significant force. This could result in severe injuries to your dog or even your dog's death; and depending on the size of your dog, it could also injure or kill the driver or passengers.

These horrendous consequences are easily preventable by restraining your dog when travelling by car.

What happens if a dog causes an accident?

The Highway Code also instructs owners to not allow a dog out on the road on its own. They must be kept on a short lead when walking on the pavement, road or path shared with cyclists or horse riders (Rule 56).

What claims can be brought against owners?

Claims can be brought against dog owners who are proven liable if their dog causes an incident that results in injury or death. The cost of compensation and legal costs can run into tens of thousands. Even though such events will have been unintentional, they can occur and therefore as a dog owner it may be prudent to take out third party liability insurance to protect against any costs or compensation you may need to pay if your dog does cause an accident.

By taking simple steps, we can all continue to enjoy a safe and happy relationship with our furry friends.

Get advice

Wards Solicitors has specialist expertise in this area of law. If you would like legal advice on the issues raised, please contact Angela Carnell, Solicitor Associate, in our Accident and Injury team on 01454 204880 or at

Further information

The Animals Act 1971 s.2(2) -

Road Traffic Act 1988 s.3 -

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