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Pets in Cars Over Christmas: Rules of the Road 101


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Planning on taking pets in cars these Christmas holidays? Rules of the road vary from state to state so take some time to understand which rules apply to you.

Regardless, whether your Pomeranian is a great backseat driver, or you have a friendly water dragon who takes participation far more seriously, practice safety first.

When driving with pets, here is a (by no means exhaustive) guide to rules of the road, state by state.

Pets in cars – rules of the road in NSW  

The Roads and Maritime Services in NSW stipulates no animals on laps while driving. Sorry Chihuahua, rules are rules and must be followed. Pets also need to be seated (or housed) in appropriate areas.

Best to restrain them with some kind of harness or pop them into a travel crate/similar that can be secured into your car.

And whether you’re on a motorcycle or in a car you should never lead or tether your pet on the outside of the car while the vehicle is moving. We really hope you didn’t need to know that.

Also be careful with pets in utes. If you can’t secure them in the cabin, securely attach a pet crate to the tray. That way they won’t fly off if you turn or stop abruptly.

Driving with pets in VIC

When driving with pets over the Christmas holidays, the rules of the road in Victoria are similar to those of NSW with a few notable additions.

Let’s recap.

Like NSW, the Victorian Transport Resources reiterates no driving with pets on laps.  Secure them, people! And no tying them to the car or driving while leading a pet (if your Cavoodle needs a sprint, take a Summer stroll along the promenade).

And if you’re more of a bikie then bear in mind, no pets between you and the handlebars. Except for working farmers who are entitled to a 500-metre drive with a furry BFF.

Top tips for pets in cars in QLD

A post on the Queensland My Police website from Sergeant Marty Arnold, Officer in Charge Road Policing Unit, Bundaberg says:

“It is not uncommon to see dogs not only sitting on the drivers lap but from time to time standing upright resting their front paws on either the steering wheel or driver’s side window. We have even had cases where the pet had jumped down into the driver’s foot well area making it difficult for the driver to brake.”

Top tip for driving with pets: Don’t let your dog be an overly active passenger driver (or the actual driver ????). And no pets on laps here either!

The My Police website also has some tips on travelling with dogs in utes:

  • Don’t restrain with a choker chain
  • Restrain the dog behind the cabin and in the middle. Use a secure neck collar or harness
  • Ensure the lead is not too short or long so the dog can move from side to side comfortably and without being able to jump over the side
  • Place in an enclosed shelter/cage. This will protect the dog from dust and wind. Avoid branches and other projectiles whilst travelling
  • Cover the metal floor of the ute. Hot conditions will make the metal heat up, which can burn the dog’s claws.
This dog and other pets in cars need to be well secured for safety.

Travelling with pets – rules of the road in SA

According to the University of Adelaide’s website, the people most likely to have their dog unrestrained in their car are younger, drive less frequently and have a larger dog.

While there’s no law against this, don’t take a chances with your unrestrained pet dashing after some unidentified-footpath-object. Been there, done that? Lesson learned, hopefully…Here’s what to do if you’ve lost a pet on a road trip.

What you are required to do, however, is to restrain your pet when travelling in the back of a truck or ute.

WA rules around pets in cars

The WA Department of Transport recommends restraining your pet while driving. No pets on laps or anywhere in the car that might distract you or obstruct your vision. And no tethering pets to a moving vehicle.

And as in Victoria, motorcyclists may not ride with their pets between themselves and the handlebars. The same applies to having your pet in any other position that interferes with your ability to control the motorcycle or have a clear view.

Driving with pets in the ACT

It’s safe to say that if you apply all the above rules and recommendations you’ll be safe from any fine in the ACT,

The ACT police site says it’s an offence to leave an animal in a car if the health, safety or welfare of a pet is jeopardised. Ditto if being in a car causes a pet suffering distressed.

It’s very likely this applies where the car is driving or stationed. For example, you should never keep an animal in the car when it’s parked. The inside of a car heats up super quickly, even on cool days.

In Tasmania, Police Inspector John Ward tells the Mercury Newspaper that we need to restrain our pets effectively while on the road. Harness, crate, secure… you know the drill.

He adds that not protecting a passenger pet could result in a $159 fine.

Travelling with pets – NT do’s and don’ts

NT News reports that a Ms Bugg was issued with an on-the-spot fine for having Hendrix, her Maltese-poodle cross in the passenger’s seat without a seat-belt.

Although it seems this is not actually a legal requirement in the territory, so the infringement is being withdrawn.

Ms Bugg has since bought one-year-old Hendrix a seatbelt from a pet store. Good move, if she doesn’t want her pup to potentially affect her driving.

FYI Territory motorists are still prohibited from transporting an unrestrained dog on the back of a ute.

This dog needs to be protected according to rules on pets on cars.

Your state transport contacts

This guide is by no means exhaustive and rules may change, so always consult your local department of transport for the most relevant and up-to-date rules of the road for pets in cars.

But if you remember anything from this article, remember this: If you don’t secure your pet to the inside of the car it can become a missile. Do you really want to risk the family pet disrupting your driving and potentially causing a serious accident? Or hurting you or themselves?

Also know that demerit points and fines are all different depending on which state or territory you’re in.

Refer to these links for more information on this and the road rule situation in each jurisdiction:

We’ve got you covered when driving with pets

For some great ideas on pet-friendly destinations, comfy travel and road essentials read our travelling with pets: your ultimate guide. And if you’re a little nervous about driving in a COVID-conscious world, read our article on roadtrip planning post pandemic.

In addition to a safety belt for you and a restraint for your pet, having car insurance can give you the peace of mind you need to buckle up and set off on a road trip of a lifetime! So too will our top-notch pet insurance for dogs and cats.

Why not get a quote for each now?

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