Driving with an unsecured pet isn’t an offence, but driving carelessly is

31st Jan 2020

Claim

It’s against the law to travel with an unrestrained pet in your car.

Conclusion

It’s not against the law to drive with your pet unsecured, but if the animal distracts you or you have an accident then this could be an offence.

A post that’s been shared on Facebook almost 60,000 times claims it’s now against the law to travel with an unrestrained pet in your car. It gives some examples of how to keep your pet restrained, like putting a dog in a harness attached to a seatbelt. Failing to do so, it claims, could mean you’re given a fine of up to £2,500 and penalty points on your licence, and says this may also invalidate insurance claims after accidents.

It is not an offence to travel with an unrestrained pet, but it could count against you if you have an accident. It’s also unsafe for you and your pet.

Rule 57 of the Highway Code in both Great Britain and Northern Ireland says:

“When in a vehicle, make sure that dogs and 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.”

Breaking the Highway Code isn’t on its own an offence, but it can be used in court to show that you’re liable for what happened after an accident if you didn’t follow it.

Driving with an unrestrained pet could contribute to something that is an offence, for example “careless and inconsiderate driving”. Police can issue a fixed penalty notice on the spot—which amounts to a fine of £100 and three points on the driver’s licence—in “low harm” cases. The driver has the option of refusing the fine and choosing to go to court instead. In more serious cases police can report the driver to be summonsed to court.

The Highway Code says this offence carries the possibility of an unlimited fine, possible disqualification from driving and between three and nine points on your licence.

If your case goes to court and you are sentenced then one of the factors that determines the extent of any fine, points and driving ban is how culpable you were in the offence.

This article is part of our work factchecking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as partly false because driving with an unrestrained pet isn’t illegal, but if the animal distracts you or you have an accident it could be an offence.

We aim for our fact checks to be as accurate and up-to-date as possible. If you think we've made an error or missed some relevant information, please email team@fullfact.org.

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