Dog owners and animal welfare charities have urged service stations to introduce designated toilet facilities and amenities that allow dogs inside.
Many of the UK’s largest service station providers, such as Moto, Extra and Road Chef do not allow dogs inside their premises – a policy that poses a problem for dog owners who are either travelling alone or with children in the summer months.
The issue was highlighted by dog and puppy behaviourist Louise Glazebrook, 40, in a post on her Instagram on Thursday, 5 August.
Glazebrook was travelling to London with her children and family dog, Pip, when she stopped at an Extra service station in Cambridge so that her eight-year-old son could use the bathroom.
“I parked up and looked at the temperature gauge of the car which said 28 degrees, and then realised that I was on my own with the kids,” she told The Independent.
The RSPCA strongly advises against leaving your dog in the car, even on a mildly warm day, as “when its 22 degrees, in a car it can reach an unbearable 47 degrees within the hour”.
Feeling out of options, Glazebrook got out of the car with her children and Pip and walked to the entrance of the service station, where she waited for her son to run in and use the bathroom.
“Leaving Pip in the car didn’t even feel like an option, but I felt really uncomfortable with my son going in alone.
“I essentially had to make the choice between my dog potentially dying in a hot car and my child’s safety,” she added.
Glazebrook’s Instagram post has since been viewed more than 3,000 times, with many dog owners sharing their own experiences of the difficulties they have faced when travelling alone with their pet.
On its website, Moto asks people not to leave their pets in the car, and instead tie them up in a safe place.
However, the RSPCA has rebuked this advice given the 170 per cent rise in dog thefts during the pandemic, as recorded by charity DogLost.
“We don’t advise that owners leave their pets tied up unattended outside shops or service stations but, during warm weather, it’s also incredibly unsafe to leave pets in cars as they can very quickly overheat,” a spokesperson told The Independent.
“We’d love to see more dog-friendly provision at locations, such as service stations, to ensure that people can use the facilities and keep their pets safe,” they added.
Glazebrook’s call for services to introduce dog-friendly facilities has also been backed by the Dog’s Trust.
A spokesperson for the charity told The Independent: “Motorway service stations could be putting responsible dog owners travelling with their pet in a very difficult position by not allowing dogs on the premises.
“Dogs Trust would therefore call for motorway service stations to consider making their outlets open for dogs, so that owners don’t face a tricky – and potentially dangerous – dilemma.
“We would be happy to work with such establishments to help them on their journey towards becoming more dog friendly. In the meantime, we would encourage owners to plan journeys around dog-friendly stops.”
A spokesperson for Road chef told The Independent that it does not allow dogs inside its sites due to hygiene and safety risks. The only exceptions are small pets who are inside a secure pet carrier.
“The health and wellbeing of our customers and team is our number one priority, and we can not allow pets to put this at risk,” it said.
“While the majority of pet owners responsibly look after their pets, there is no way to guarantee that they will be kept under control throughout their visit,” it added.
Roadchef said it has recently installed some temporary external toilet facilities to accommodate dog owners over the summer at its busiest stations, such as Sedgemoor and Taunton Deane.
It added: “If a member of the public contacts us prior to their trip and explains their situation, we will do our utmost to ask a member of the team to look after their dog whilst they visit our toilet facilities.”
Ken McMeikan, chief executive of Moto, told The Independent that the company is hoping to introduce new facilities at its service stations.
“We have this week been made aware of the concerns that Louise Glazebrook has raised regarding her experience at motorway service areas and will definitely be working with her to try and introduce new facilities to improve the experience specifically at Moto sites even further,” he said.
The Independent has contacted Extra for comment.