Is your dog wearing a seatbelt? If not, you might be breaking the law

The Dogs Trust is launching a car safety awareness campaign for canines. Picture: DOGS TRUST

The Dogs Trust is launching a car safety awareness campaign for canines. Picture: DOGS TRUST - Credit: Archant

Dog owners who leave their pets unrestrained in their cars while driving could be breaking the law and putting their lives in danger, a charity has warned today.

Many of us would never dream of setting off on a long Bank Holiday car journey before making sure our children and loved ones are safely strapped in.

But today the Dogs Trust warns that even though our pets are much-loved family members, more than one in five dog owners in East Anglia regularly travel with their pooch unrestrained in the car.

Some drivers, according to the Dogs Trust – which has a rehoming centre in Snetterton, near Attleborough – even daringly drive with their dogs on their laps while they try to control the car at the wheel.

As many families set off on long Bank Holiday car journeys, the charity is today launching a dog safety awareness campaign to ensure people stick to the law and ensure their pets are properly strapped in.

Dr Rachel Casey, director of canine behaviour and research for Dogs Trust, said: 'Dogs are such an important part of people's lives, so it's understandable that owners want to take them out and about with them.

'However, our survey shows many people don't know the safest way to travel with their dogs and some are even unwittingly breaking the law by letting their dogs roam around the car whilst they are on the move.'

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What the law says

Rule 57 of the Highway Code 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 Dogs Trust survey revealed that nearly half of the 2,000 people in East Anglia questioned as part of the survey in July 2017 are unaware they are breaking the law.

The results show that 46pc of owners do not restrain their dogs with a harness whilst in the car and more than a quarter admit to finding them a distraction.

One in 10 said they have had to take their hand off the wheel to restrain their four-legged passengers, while 5pc even confessed to taking selfies and playing with their dog whilst driving.

One in five dog owners regularly travel with their dog unrestrained in the passenger seat of their car and 9pc even place their pooch in their lap whilst at the wheel.

The survey also said:

? 84pc of dogs in the region have no formal training on how to behave in the car

? Nearly 83pc of people believe that having a dog in the car is dangerous

? 88pc believe their dog enjoys car journeys

Advice for dog owners

The Dogs Trust has today launched its 'Houndway Code' to give motorists advice on travelling with their dogs in cars.

The charity's advice includes:

? Dogs should be secured within the boot with a guard blocking access to the car passenger interior or within a crate/cage securely positioned within the boot.

? If you use a harness for your dog, ensure it is appropriately sized and correctly fitted. The dog should travel on the back seat and the harness should be secured to the seat belt attachment

? If your dog is still getting used to car travel, place something that smells very much of you and your dog in with him to help him feel secure, as the smell of this can give comfort and reassurance. This could be a blanket or pillow case.

? Ensure your dog has plenty to drink so they don't become dehydrated. Do not leave a dog alone in a car.

? Secure a dog behind the front passenger seat and never behind the driver in case they get hold of clothing and cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle.