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Friday, 24 August 2012

One for the road

Dear Dogs Today,

On Friday 3rd August, I broke down in the Harlow area, en route to my brother’s in Kent from my home in Leeds. I had my two dogs, a Labrador and working Cocker with me, and my parrot.

When I phoned Green Flag, with whom I have breakdown cover, I was told my dogs probably wouldn’t be allowed to travel with me in the cab and they would have to remain in the car with it being towed. I explained that when I renewed my policy, I checked with them that my dogs would be able to travel with me in the event of a breakdown, and was told that yes, this would be the case. I informed the person on the phone of this, stating I wouldn’t have renewed otherwise, and that I wished my dogs to remain with me. My Cocker is 14 and is nervous after having been attacked recently, and my Lab has spondylosis, so I like to stay with her at all times too. The gentleman on the phone suggested they could take the car but leave me and my dogs. As a pensioner I didn’t like the sound of this option.

Thankfully, after a bit of persuading, the gentleman who came out did let me keep my dogs and parrot in the cab with me. I shall be forever grateful to him for that.

 I was told the reason some drivers at Green Flag do not take dogs is because some people are allergic to dogs, or don’t want to get dog hair on their clothes. I carry an unopened blanket and plastic sheet in case of events such as this, so I can keep the hair left in another person’s vehicle to a minimal amount. I would be happy to pay an extra £20 or so a year to be guaranteed a driver who is dog-friendly. Perhaps this could also cover the cost of plastic sheet covers.

Does anyone have any really good experiences with their breakdown provider? Are there any breakdown companies who will guarantee to take well-behaved dogs in the cab? I’d love to find a dog-friendly one.

Mrs Pearson, by phone

A Green Flag spokesperson says...

Our terms and conditions state that onward transportation of any animal is at Green Flag's discretion and that of our individual network patrols who deal with cases out on the road. Clearly, while we appreciate the preferred option for the customer you speak about, it can be a concern for several reasons. From a safety perspective, having a dog travelling in the cab could be at best distracting and at worse dangerous. A patrol would also have to clean the vehicle afterwards given our customers expect a high level of service and could be allergic to animals. Given the volumes of customers we deal with on a daily basis, this would mean allocating time to cleaning vehicles and delaying patrols being able to get to their next job posting and helping someone in need at the roadside.

Anecdotally, very few customers offer additional money to pay for the cleaning, particularly where an animal has an accident in the cab, but it is less about the cost for us than the time it makes the vehicle unavailable. We have had drivers attacked when driving and by dogs that we are told are very placid plus other dogs that are just allowed to run round the cab as they please because they aren't used to being restrained. How do we differentiate between responsible owners with well behaved dogs and those that are not?

As stated, for sensible reasons, the policy is such that it is at Green Flag's discretion because there could be a myriad of different situations we may have to deal with involving animals so there is not one rule fits all. The customer will have been told what our general policy was and as it happens in this case, the patrol did kindly help to accommodate her animals which may not have been the case with a different patrol who may not have wished to take the risk and transport the animals.

I should also say that we have offered to transport the dogs in the broken down car on the back of a transporter where the animal will be happy in its own environment while the customer travels in the cab with the driver...this works for some customers but not others so its a mixed bag of requests as I'm sure you can appreciate but we always try and strike a balance between the need for safety and the customers requirements.


  1. You could try this. We had the membership for a while but never broke down so can't comment on how good it is.

  2. I think that is a very reasonable reply from the Green Flag spokesperson. A dog loose in the cab could easily cause an accident or leave a load of fleas behind. The cab of a vehicle is the driver's own workplace after all.

  3. We broke down on the way to Cornwall once.The first tow truck refused to have the dogs ( 3) in the cab with us.Luckily it was a short trip to get a flat board truckto take us all the way back to London.
    The 2nd man very kindly let me cover the seats with sheets and the dogs were with me for the 6 hour trip back.I am not sure how my dogs would have coped being in the car on top of a flat bed truck,all alone for hours on end.
    He was given a good tip!
    It is at the disrection of the opperative I am afraid.Some people like dogs - others don't!