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Riding in cars with pets: road rules you need to follow

Riding in cars with pets: road rules you need to follow

The saying goes: pets are part of the family, and for most Australians, this saying rings true. So it’s not surprising people all over the country travel with their furry mates when they hit the road. But just like humans, if pets are involved in a car accident there’s a chance of injury, or even death.

For the safety of your four-legged friend, we’ll help you understand the road rules you should know about when travelling with your animal companion.

What are the rules around riding in cars with pets?

In Australia you’re legally obliged to make sure your pet is secure when they’re riding in the car with you. Laws around restraining pets in moving vehicles are different in each state but the overall rule is to make sure they’re not causing any distractions to the driver and they’re as safe as can be.

Under NSW road rules, it’s a big no for drivers, motorcycle riders, bicycle riders or passengers to lead an animal on a leash or tether while the vehicle is moving. All animals should be safely seated in appropriate areas inside the vehicle – pets are safest when seated in the backseat. 

And although there’s no requirement for Queensland drivers to restrain their pets while driving, it is illegal for them to be seated on the driver’s lap. This is because pets can be spontaneously reactive, and it doesn’t take much for them to cause a distraction. For this reason, drivers must not drive with an animal in their lap. The same rule applies for motorcycle and bicycle riders – they mustn’t ride with an animal between the handlebars.

What are the consequences?

In NSW you can be fined $448 and lose three demerit points if your dog causes you not to be in full control of the vehicle – this includes your dog sitting on your lap while driving or unrestrained in the back of a ute or van.

For Queensland drivers, driving with a dog on your lap is illegal and you can be slapped with a $294 fine. The consequences for breaking these road rules in school zones are even higher.

Under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, if an animal is injured because it wasn’t properly restrained in a motor vehicle the owner can face up to six months in jail and a maximum fine of $5,500.

How do I safely restrain my pet?

There are multiple ways you can protect your pet from slipping and sliding about while travelling in the car:

  • Car safety strap
  • Car harness
  • Car pet booster seat

Car harnesses and safety straps are the most popular option because they’re quick and easy to use. To help keep your pet safe on any journey, simply attach your animal’s harness or collar to your back seat using a car safety strap or harness attachment.

These attachments allow your pet to sit comfortably and keeps your cat or dog in one place, ensuring they won’t move too far in the case of sudden breaking or an unexpected collision. It also means preventing possible injury because your pet is less likely to jump out of a moving car window.

Ways to keep your pet safe while driving

  • Try to avoid feeding your pet a large amount of food or water before travelling. If you do need to give them a bite before taking off, it’s best to do so two to three hours before leaving. During the ride, provide them with water to keep them hydrated.
  • As lovely as it might be to have your best buddy ride up front with you, it’s much safer to restrain your pet in the backseat. This is because in the unfortunate event of an accident, the passenger seat airbag could cause injury or death to your fluffy friend.
  • Always keep your vehicle well ventilated and avoid your pet from getting heatstroke by keeping the temperature inside your vehicle at a comfortable level.
  • Never leave your pet unattended in a vehicle.

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