The laws regarding dog restraint in vehicles can vary between the states/territories. Please check with the state government department responsible for animal welfare or the relevant state Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty To Animals (RSPCA) to review the Animal Welfare laws that apply travelling with dogs in cars.
In Queensland, for example, there is an offence under section 297(1A) of the Queensland Road Rules which states that “a driver must not drive a vehicle if a person or an animal is in the driver’s lap”. Therefore, if your cute Shih Tzu is on your lap- it is against the law in Queensland to drive.
This offence is punishable by a fine of up to 20 penalty units which is more than $2,000.
Our best recommendation is to secure your dogs using restraints
Why should you restrain your dog while driving? In addition to it being against the law to drive, here are other reasons why:
- Less potential to distract the driver if the dog cannot move around the car.
- Decreased risk of injury to the dog and everyone in the vehicle, in the event of a collision or if the car stops quickly.
- Prevents the dog from jumping out the car window or from the back of a ute/truck which could cause injury to the dog and other road users.
Options For Restratains For Dogs
A range of vehicle restraints for dogs are widely available, and they can help secure your pets during travel while keeping them relaxed and comfortable. Here are some of them:
- Car Harness – Keep your pets safely strapped up in the back of your vehicle with a car harness. The right size should fit over your dog’s head, around the chest and upper torso. It can be attached to an existing car seat belt keeping your dogs safe in cars.
- Hammock Seat Cover with Seat Barrier – Its main functions are dog comfort, car cleanliness and dog safety. Typically, it is made of anti-slip materials and openings where you can attach the seat belts. It also has a mesh seat barrier that can prevent your dogs from accessing the front seat.
- Pet Booster Seats / Pet Baskets – These are perfect for securing your smaller dogs. They also have seat belts that help keep your dogs stay still while on the road.
- Cage or Carrier – Dogs on utes should in a cage or carrier. This stops a dog from falling out and being injured. It also fulfils your legal obligation, as the driver to make sure your dog is safe.
While the RSCPA doesn’t have a specific policy on the appropriate restraint of dogs in cars, they do have a policy regarding containers for animal transport. The cage should be the right size to prevent cramping and overcrowding and well covered to provide shelter from sun, dust, wind and rain.
Note: There are no set rules about a dog riding secured in the front passenger seat. However, be mindful that dogs can get seriously injured and even killed if an exploding airbag strikes them.
Keeping Your Dogs Safe In Cars: Other Fines For Non-Compliance
Aside from the rules applied by the state or territory transport department, the RSPCA can issue fines under The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act if an animal is injured because it was unrestrained. Pet owners may face up to six months in jail and fines of up to $5,500. Carrying dogs that are not in cages on the backs of utes can land drivers with fines of $500.
To find out what rules apply in your state or territory, contact your state or territory transport department:
- Australian Capital Territory – Transport for Canberra
- New South Wales – Roads and Maritime Services
- Northern Territory – Department of Transport
- Queensland – Department of Transport and Main Roads
- South Australia – My Licence SA
- Tasmania – Department of State Growth, Transport
- Victoria – VicRoads
- Western Australia – Department of Transport
Travelling with your dogs for a road trip can be a fun bonding experience. With ample preparation and understanding of the law, keeping your dogs safe in cars becomes easy. After the trip, remember to reward your dogs for being such a good pooch in the car.
Read more great articles about your pets HERE.