Breaking down with a furry friend onboard: what to do and how to stay safe

We know how important pets are and it’s not surprising considering the large role they play in your life that they may travel in a vehicle with you, but have you ever spared a thought about what might happen if you breakdown with your furry pets onboard and how that could affect your breakdown experience?

If you pay for roadside assistance, you expect to be assisted regardless of whether you have hooman passengers or pets in the car, including having your vehicle towed to the nearest garage if required. Well, we have a real-life stressful experience to share that may make you think twice about how you would act if you do find yourself in the unfortunate situation of breaking down with your pet passenger and how you can both stay safe road-side.

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We spoke to one of our clients recently who shared an incident about the misfortune of one of his close friends who had a bad experience when he needed roadside assistance and had his dog on-board with him. Let’s call our client’s friend Brian - just to keep things simple. Brian called his breakdown company (not one of ours may we add) and they sent someone out to assist. However, when the breakdown recovery driver arrived at Brian’s location and assessed that the vehicle would need to be towed, the driver refused to allow the dog in the recovery vehicle cab and left them on the side of the motorway. Brian was left feeling confused, stressed and worried about his and the pooch’s safety as they stood on the side of the busy motorway with no idea who to call or what to do next.

As many of us at Abbeyfields Insurance have dogs, it prompted us to contact all of our breakdown providers to find out their stance on recovery of vehicles when pets are involved. Thankfully, all of our breakdown providers gave the same advice and explanation; which we will explain below.

What should I do if I breakdown with my pet onboard?

If you breakdown on a motorway, the Highway Code states that you should leave any animals in the vehicle or, if in an emergency to keep them under proper control on the verge (Rule 56 interprets this as being kept on a short lead and under control to prevent any accidents or further danger)

Can my breakdown driver refuse to tow my vehicle if I have a pet with me?

The driver should suggest that your pet remains in your vehicle whilst it is being towed. However, yes, they can use their own discretion to refuse to allow your pet to travel in the recovery vehicle cab with you, due to allergies or phobias or even health & safety reasons.

I would never leave my pet in my vehicle whilst it’s being towed, what else can I do?

Us neither! Our breakdown providers advised letting the call handlers know when you report your breakdown and location over the phone that you have a pet onboard and they will endeavor to send a recovery driver who is comfortable with pets traveling within the recovery vehicle cab to assist you.

If you have no luck with your breakdown assistance provider, we would suggest asking a family member or friend if they could come and pick up your pet. We know our dogs would be terrified on their own in a towed vehicle, whilst others may be pretty chilled. It’s up to you, but it is at your own risk and the recovery drivers’ will not take responsibility for your pet whilst in a towed vehicle.

Should I tell my breakdown provider that I have a pet onboard when I call roadside assistance?

Yes, that way the call handlers can assign a recovery driver who is comfortable with pets to come and assist you. This is also very important in the instance that you have an assistance animal, like a guide dog, as the handlers will give you tailored advice on what to do next.

How do I keep myself and my pet safe whilst driving?

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.

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We thought we’d share this experience with you with helpful tips, so that you and your four legged friends can travel safely.

If you have any questions about our breakdown cover, or would like one of our friendly account handlers to give you a quotation for classic car or multi-vehicle policies then please give us a call on 0121 550 2380, Mon - Fri - 9am - 5pm. Why not ask them about their pooch’s too. Jayne has a Jack Russell named Millie and Lucy has a Frenchie named Bugzy

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~Stuart Moore Profile Pic

Stuart Moore

Stuart is our club liaison and has been proudly petrol heading since he can remember. He's also knows a thing or too about specialist vehicle insurance. Get a quote online or call Stuart on 0121 550 2380 - he's here 9 am to 5 pm, Mon to Fri.