Get your dog a harness and clip every trip – that’s the best advice you’ll get. There are heaps of different types of harnesses available for your dog, and if Fido really is your best friend, man, then you ought to invest in one that is safe, and actually plugs into a seatbelt receiver or loops through a seatbelt.

    • Treat your pet like a person – clip every trip
    • There are rules around where your pet can travel
    • The back of the ute also has rules!

    Alternatives include a pet crate, similar to what you’d put a cat in to take them to the vet (we all know how much they love that), or – if your car is large enough – you could invest in a cargo barrier for the boot area. There are fixed or removable barriers these days, though it might still be smart to secure your pet to ensure they don’t go moving around too much – any unwanted distraction could prove dangerous when you’re driving.

    Worth noting that it is illegal to put a dog in the back of a sedan-style car, too. In Victoria, the department of agriculture calls this out as an illegal act. Drive a sedan and want to take your dog with you? They are allowed to have their head out the window, but it is strongly discouraged by police. 

    Many states have no specific law around restraining an animal inside a vehicle, but all point towards broader rules around cruelty to animals. If your pet were to be injured or killed because of your negligence as a driver, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals act (1979 S7) states you could be liable for fines up to $5500 and even imprisonment for as long as 18 months. 

    If you’re a ute driver and want to take poochy for an adventure on a summer day, there are rules in Victoria regarding leaving your dog on the back of a ute if the temperature is at or above 28 degrees Celsius. The dog must have “access to an area of insulating material protecting the dog from contact with the metal surface”. 

    On that, the states and territories agree there is a need to tether or cage your dog when it is riding in the tray or tub of a ute, or in an open trailer. 

    Across the board in Australia, the states all find that it is illegal to have your furry friend (dog, cat, ferret, sheep, baby alpaca or otherwise) on your lap while you’re driving a car, ute, bus, or anything else on the road. We presume pilots, ship captains and train drivers have their own rules to abide by, too – but also, it’s really unsafe.

    In New South Wales, the maximum fine for driving with a pet in your lap is $2200 and four demerit points if you do it in a school zone at the marked time. It falls under the category of being in “proper control of the vehicle”, and it’s not just for animals – you’re also not allowed to drive with another person (child or adult) in your lap.

    The law in Victoria states you cannot drive a vehicle “with an animal on your lap”, or “while you or a passenger is leading an animal”, or “while an animal is tied to the vehicle”.

    Bonus law update: if you ride a motorcycle, you aren’t allowed to have an animal between you and the handlebars unless you are a “working farmer” as they are allowed to “ride with the animal for up to 500 metres”. In NSW, you can’t ride with a dog on the fuel tank of a motorbike.

    Not intended as legal advice. Check with the relevant roads authority in your state or territory.

    Matt Campbell
    Matt Campbell is a Senior Contributor at CarExpert.
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