Few things say ‘happy’ like a dog with its head out of the window of a moving car. As a dog-lover, it might break your heart to deny your pet this simple joy, but failing to properly restrain your dog in a car could be the ultimate act of cruelty. Not only are you breaking the law in Australia, you could be putting your, your pet’s and your passengers’ lives at risk.
You wouldn’t have any passenger in your car without a seatbelt, so why would you not do the same with your pet? An unsecured dog may try to jump out of a car window, distract the driver (even jumping all over the driver) and in the case of an accident, your pet might become a projectile, injuring itself and others in the car. In fact the NRMA reports "If you're driving 60km per hour with an unrestrained 20kg dog in your car and it gets thrown onto you, the impact is the same as if it had hit you from a third-floor balcony."
It’s also the law
Australian law requires you to secure your pet in a moving car. In NSW, you can be fined if the animal causes you to not be in full control of the vehicle. You must not drive with a pet on your lap and dogs on utes must also be correctly restrained. In South Australia and Western Australia, you can’t drive with an animal on the driver’s lap. To find out what laws apply in your state, make sure you check out the relevant road authorities.
On top of this, the RSPCA can also issue fines under The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. If an animal is injured because it was unrestrained, you could be looking at up to six months’ jail and fines of up to $5,500, while not securing pets properly on the backs of utes can land drivers with fines of $500.
What are your options?
Firstly don’t put your dog in the front seat of the car – especially if it’s a small dog. If air bags are deployed they could cause serious injury or even death of your pet.
Pet transport crates – Pet crates have to be secured safely inside the car and as per RSPCA guidelines, they should be roomy enough that your pet can stand up, turn around and lie down in.
Harnesses – There are lots of options for purpose-made dog harnesses which are easily attached to your car’s seatbelts; make sure the harness is the right size for your dog and fitted correctly.
Cargo barriers – These are great for station wagons and four wheel drives where the dog can sit or lie down at the back of the vehicle. You can buy as an option on you’re a new vehicle or buy adjustable barriers which are easily installed and removed. We recommend also using a dog harness as well for the safety of your pet.
If you’re putting them on the back seat of your car, make sure it’s the passenger side. You don’t want to be loading and unloading them into traffic.
And remember just like you need to take a break every two hours, so does your dog so take the time to pull over and let your furry mate relieve themselves and stretch their legs too. You’d be amazed how many petrol stations have convenient grass verges!
As always, carry water and a water bowl - pet shops sell a range of lightweight squashable travel bowls these days.