The Law about Carrying Dogs in Cars

June 17, 2023 - 12:09 am - 5 min read

Dogs are wonderful companions and can be great travel buddies; however, there are laws about carrying dogs in cars that every dog owner must follow. Failing to adhere to these guidelines can result in a fine or penalty. Every country has specific laws on the transportation of dogs in cars, and if you frequently travel with your pet, you must ensure you’re familiar with the laws in your state or country.

1. Securing Dogs in Cars

When traveling with your dog in a car, it’s important to make sure they are secured properly to avoid injury in the case of an accident. Furthermore, an unsecured dog can cause distractions and interfere with driving, potentially resulting in an accident. In terms of the law, drivers must ensure their pets do not distract or endanger them while on the road.

The Highway Code stipulates that dogs should be restrained appropriately while traveling in a car. In the UK, the Road Traffic Act 1988 outlines that it is an offense to transport a pet in a way that is likely to cause harm or suffering, which includes transporting an unrestrained dog. Various ways to secure your dog while traveling include the use of crates, seat belts, and harnesses.

It’s important to note that the exact laws and regulations around restraining dogs in cars might differ between countries or states. In the USA, for example, Hawaii requires that all dogs be in a kennel or crate while in a car, while New Jersey must be restrained by a seat belt or harness. Pet owners must educate themselves on the laws that apply in their area to ensure they remain compliant and law-abiding.

2. Not Leaving Dogs in Cars

It’s not just about securing your dog in the car, but also not leaving them unattended. Leaving a dog in a vehicle can be dangerous and potentially fatal for dogs. A parked car can get very hot quickly, even on mild days, and this can cause heatstroke or dehydration. In the winter, a cold vehicle can also cause hypothermia, putting the pet’s life at risk.

Leaving a dog unattended in a car under these conditions is not only illegal, but it’s also considered animal cruelty and can result in hefty fines or imprisonment. In some areas, temperatures can rise rapidly, even if it isn’t hot outside. The RSPCA states that parked cars can become yellow ovens, even with the windows open a little. It can take just six minutes for a dog’s health to be in danger in a hot car.

3. Dangerous Driving with Dogs

The Highway Code in the United Kingdom stipulates that dogs should not obstruct or distract the driver while driving. This includes dogs climbing on laps, sitting on the passenger seat, or leaning over the gearstick. A dog that is not secured correctly, or in an area that obstructs the view of the driver, could cause a road hazard. Therefore, it’s important to ensure your dog is placed in a safe and secure area of the car.

If a driver is seen to be travelling unsafely with a dog, it can result in a fine. According to the Road Traffic Act 1988, it is an offence to drive without due care and attention. A moving dog can distract the driver and lead to a dangerous situation on the road, which is why many countries have laws against unrestrained dogs in vehicles.

4. The Size of the Car and Number of Dogs

When it comes to the size of your car and carrying your dog, there are guidelines you should follow. The law is generally lenient on the number of dogs you can carry in a car, as long as they are not obstructing your view or distracting you. However, the size of your vehicle must be large enough to accommodate your dog, and you should not overload the vehicle beyond its recommended capacity.

If your pet is large, it’s important to consider their comfort while traveling. You should ensure they have adequate space and ventilation inside the car. Additionally, it’s important to prioritise their safety by investing in safety equipment such as a dog seat belt, a crate or a dog guard, especially if the pet has not traveled in a car before.

5. Consequences of Not Following the Law

Failing to follow the law about carrying dogs in cars could result in fines or criminal charges, particularly in the event of an accident or injury to your pet. While the fine may vary from one place to another, the idea behind the laws is to ensure the safety of all road users, including pets. Animal cruelty charges can be severe and punishable by imprisonment in some regions.

It’s important to note that even if you travel with well-behaved dogs and are confident that they won’t cause a problem, the law requires responsible dog owners to take all necessary precautions while transporting their pets. If you’re not sure about the regulations or guidelines, the best course of action is to consult a legal expert or your local authority for clarification.


It’s crucial to educate yourself about the law regarding carrying dogs in cars to ensure the safety of both the pet and the driver. Investing in high-quality restraining equipment can prevent accidents and keep pets safe while traveling. Moreover, if you’re not sure about the legal guidelines and requirements regarding carrying dogs in cars, it’s imperative to seek advice from a legal expert or a local authority. By following and adhering to the regulations and guidelines, dog owners can have peace of mind when traveling on the road.


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