More than one in four pet owners risk the life of their animal when travelling

  • More than a quarter (28 per cent) of dog owners never restrain their dogs in the car
  • Over a fifth (22 per cent) of vets say dogs have died as a result of a road crash when travelling inside the vehicle
  • Dangerous restraints seen by vets include a cardboard box, chain around the neck, pillow case and rope

Direct Line Pet Insurance has found that pet owners are not properly securing their pets when on the move. New research1 from the insurer reveals over a fifth (22 per cent) of vets2 have witnessed dogs die as a result of injuries sustained when travelling in a car without proper restraint. Yet worryingly, 28 per cent of owners never restrain their dogs when travelling in the car.

For dogs, the safest methods of restraint identified by vets are a dog seat belt and harness (53 per cent), crate/cage (31 per cent) or a barrier in between the boot and the back seat (13 per cent). For those transporting smaller animals, vets recommend that owners keep them in a carrier (67 per cent) or secure basket (31 per cent).

Unfortunately vets have witnessed a number of dangerous restraints from owners, including passengers just holding the animal on their lap, putting the animal in a cardboard box, letting the animal roam free in the car without restraint and even putting a chain or rope around the animal’s neck.

Rule 57 of the Highway Code3 states that when in a vehicle, owners must make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained, to reduce the risk of distraction whilst driving. The RSPCA advises owners to keep smaller animals in a suitably robust and secure carrier (which allows them to sit and stand up at full height, turn around easily and lie down in a natural position)4.

Nearly a fifth (18 per cent) of vets have treated animals with injuries as a result of being poorly restrained in the car. This ranges from broken bones (39 per cent) to minor injuries such as bruising (33 per cent).

Prit Powar, head of Pet Insurance at Direct Line, said: “Some owners trust their animals to roam free around the car. However, even the most well behaved animal can become easily spooked or excited, which could distract you from the road, putting both you and your pet in danger. It’s important to adhere to the Highway Code to make sure you, your passengers and your pet is safe.”

Travelling with pets can be a challenge in many different ways. A third of dog owners report their beloved pet getting the car dirty (36 per cent) and getting car sick (33 per cent). Others have had problems when, in the style of Marley and Me, their dog has stuck its head out of the window (31 per cent). For one in ten unlucky owners, their dog had used the car as its toilet.

Top five problems caused by dogs in the car

Rank Type of misbehaviour Percentage
1 Got the car dirty 36%
2 Was sick in the car 33%
3 Stuck its head out of the window 31%
4 Distracted the driver 13%
5 Went to the toilet in the car 10%

Source: Direct Line Pet Insurance, 2016

Direct Line’s tips for travelling with a pet:

  • Get your pet used to travelling in a car as early as possible to calm those shaky legs
  • Reward your pet for good behaviour at the end of the journey with a tasty, animal-friendly treat
  • Keep towels in the car at all times to clean those mucky paws

Notes to Editors:

  1. Research carried out by Petbuzz Market Research amongst 1,390 UK pet owners between 15 & 29 June 2016
  2. Research carried out among 100 vets between 17 & 29 June 2016
  3. The Highway Code Rules 47-58: rules about animals, including horse-drawn vehicles, horse riders and other animals:
  4. RSPCA Companion Animals Pet Care Factsheet, found at:

For further information, please contact:

Direct Line

Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides motor, home, travel and pet insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.

Direct Line general insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England No 1179980. U K Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Direct Line and UK Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc.

Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0345 300 7838 or visiting

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