If you’re the owner of a dog, then the chances are that at some point you’ll have had to take it out with you on your travels. Perhaps you’ve had to pick it up from the vet and can’t find the time to take it home. Perhaps it’s a new pet that can’t be relied upon not to tear apart your upholstery, chew your cables and run its claws along your carpet.
For some, this situation is an occasional one-off – for others, it’s a regular occurrence. But what’s the best way to take an animal from place to place in your van – and where do you stand legally? Let’s find out!
What about Heat?
During the current spell of hot weather, it’s especially important to kick off by saying that you shouldn’t leave a dog in a hot car for any length of time. They will die of heatstroke. Accordingly to the RSPCA, the interior of a car will reach around 47°C within the hour even on a relatively-mild 22°C day. So don’t leave them in there for any length of time.
What Does the Law Say?
The law governing animal transportation mostly concerns livestock. It’s there to prevent unscrupulous farmers from cramming hundreds of sheep into the back of a transit. For our purposes, we should be more concerned with section 57 of the Highway Code, which indicates that dogs and other animals must be ‘suitably restrained’, such that they can’t distract you while you’re trying to drive. If your dog is well-behaved, then this might not be an issue. If it isn’t, it’s worth investing in a special harness that’ll keep it tied to the seat belts (for small dogs), or a cage that can slot into the boot (for larger ones). The cage should be large enough that the dog is comfortable, but not so large that they’ll be flung around in the event of an accident.
Remember that even a dog that’s been trained to sit immobile for the duration of the journey is vulnerable to being moved around by sudden swerves. If you need to execute an emergency stop, you might find that your dog is flung forward – so invest in suitable restraints if this sort of road-trip is going to be a regular occurrence.
Other Safety Tips
In the confines of a warm car, dehydration will quickly become an issue. Keep a supply of water available in the van and allow your dog to stop and drink at regular intervals. You might consider taping the bowl to an available surface – that is, if you don’t mind the occasional spillage in the footwell.
Obviously, you don’t want your beloved pet to make an impromptu bid for freedom. As such, it’s worth installing mesh-guards in the windows. This will allow them to enjoy fresh air while keeping them safely contained. Of course, it’ll also prevent your dog from sticking its head out of the window, which will safeguard their safety as well as that of passing motorists.