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Travelling in Vehicles

Stay safe when driving with a dog

What you should know about travelling with dogs in vehicles:

  • Regulations - RTA and RSPCA
  • Types of car restraints - crate or harness
  • Tips for a comfortable journey
  • Travelling in the car

Rules and regulations – RTA and RSPCA

The RTA advises that police can fine a driver and issue demerit points if an animal is causing the driver to be not in full control of the vehicle, or if they are driving with a dog on their lap. The penalties are three demerit points and $338, but in a school zone the fine rises to $422!

A driver, motorcycle rider, bicycle rider or passenger must not lead an animal, while the vehicle is moving. Animals should be seated or housed in an appropriate area of the vehicle.

The RSPCA can also issue fines under The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. If an animal is injured because it was unrestrained, owners face up to six months' jail and fines of up to $5,500. The Australian tradition of carrying dogs untethered on the backs of Utes can land drivers with on-the-spot fines of $500.

Types of restraints – crate or harness

Do I need to restrain my dog when travelling in my car?

Yes, restraining a dog in a vehicle will provide several safety benefits both to the dog and the occupants of the vehicle.

  • The dog cannot move around within the vehicle and therefore has less potential to distract or disrupt the driver
  • In a collision, the dog may be less likely to become a projectile thereby potentially decreasing the risk of injury to the driver or passengers
  • Restraint may prevent the dog from jumping out of a moving car's window which may reduce the risk of injury to the dog and other road users

There several ways of restraining your dog comfortably during transport. Travelling crates and containers are popular. When transporting your dog in a crate or container, make sure it has enough room to sit and stand up at full height, turn around easily and lie down in a natural position. You should also ensure your dog is able to see out of the container and that there is enough ventilation and airflow. Suitable bedding should be placed on the floor to prevent the dog from slipping around during the journey.

You can also consider a car harness that secures your dog by linking to the seat belt system. To ensure comfort and security, you must measure your dog correctly and buy a harness of the right size. Follow the instructions and ensure that you fit the harness correctly.

Never leave your pet in a parked vehicle

Do not leave pet animals in a closed car because they can suffer or die just as a child can. If a dog left in a car is panting for breath, it may be suffering from heatstroke. This could kill the dog very quickly.

In warm, sunny weather, vehicles become ovens. Even if it is cloudy, the temperature inside a car can become dangerously high for a dog. Leaving the car window open or putting a bowl of water inside does not help.

Travelling in the vehicle

The more confident puppies and dogs feel in a car, the more comfortable they will be.

The trick is to get your dog used to being in a vehicle from an early age. Start by simply putting your puppy or dog in a stationary car to get it used to the surroundings. Then graduate to short, slow trips. Your dog might get travel sickness at first, so it is sensible to cover the car seat and floors with old rugs or newspapers. Once your passenger gets comfortable, gradually increase the length of trips.

Travelling in the vehicle

  • A harness for your dog may act as a safety belt. Many harnesses attach to an ordinary seat belt
  • A waterproof sheet will come in handy for the vehicle seat
  • Carry paper towels and disinfectant in case your dog has a 'doggy accident'
  • Take your dog for a walk just before setting off
  • Don't feed your dog for two or three hours before you travel
  • Take along your dog's favourite toy or most loved rug
  • Make a habit of stopping every couple of hours for a toilet break, a drink of water and the chance for your dog to stretch its legs
  • Don't let your dog ride with his or her head out of the car window – however much he might want to! This could cause eye irritation and other ailments. There is also the possibility your dog could jump out or be hit. However, open the window enough, so that your dog gets adequate ventilation.