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Are you planning to go on a long road trip with your pup? Or perhaps, just a drive around town? But before you do so, it's important to know what the law says about travelling with your dog in your car.
Our cute and lovely dogs, by nature, can sometimes act unpredictably. Unfamiliar surroundings, sounds, or smells can get them overly excited or anxious, and under such circumstances, they may react unexpectedly. This can put your safety and that of other passengers at risk.
While our dogs sticking their heads out of the window, feeling the blowing wind or sitting like a boss on our laps is such an adorable sight, we might just have to spoil the fun for everyone's safety — and to avoid the fines.
In 2013, stricter rules were implemented in Australia to address growing concerns about irresponsible dog owners who travel with their dogs in cars completely unrestrained. The laws emphasised the prohibition of dogs sitting in the driver's area. Aside from the fact that dogs freely roaming inside the car can be distracting, it's dangerous.
Driving with your dog on your lap is a serious offence in all parts of Australia. All states and territories in Australia require the driver to have complete control over the vehicle and must not have any obstruction of the view on all sides of the car.
If your dog is jumping around the car, hanging their heads out of the window, sitting on the driver’s lap or the passenger's side unrestrained, the cops will give you an infringement notice. Any form of distraction is considered illegal.
The rules do not specifically require you to restrain your dog with a harness or a seat belt. However, by doing so, you can secure the safety of your dog, yourself, and other passengers. If you're travelling with a ute, not tethering your dogs can be dangerous. They can escape or fall from the car.
In fact, the RSPCA can issue fines or recommend jail time if a dog gets injured due to the owner’s negligence. Similarly, motorcycle riders must not carry their dogs between the handlebars and the driver. Dogs must be housed appropriately in the vehicle, tethered or caged.
The laws may vary state by state, including demerit points and penalty fines. Let’s find out the rules and regulations that apply to the state you're in:
In NSW, you can be fined and receive demerit points if your dog is causing you not to have full control over your vehicle. Drivers caught with unrestrained dogs can risk fines of more than $400. New South Wales legislation carries a penalty of three demerits points and a fine of $338 to $422 in school zones.
More so, if an animal is injured as a result of being unrestrained, owners will serve six months of jail time and fines of $5,500 up to $11,000 under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. An on-the-spot fine of $500 will land on utes drivers that do not restrain their dogs, especially at the back of the vehicle.
Around 37% of Queensland households own one or more dogs. It’s no surprise that many love to bring their dogs along on car trips. If you’re one of those drivers who let their dogs sit on their lap, you’ve got to stop doing that. Under Section 297 (1A) of Queensland Road Rules, this offence is punishable by a fine of up to 20 demerit points which is more than $2,000.
Under the same section, if an unrestrained dog is distracting you from having full control of the car, a $284 infringement notice penalty will land on the driver. Similarly, dogs are considered loads on the vehicle, so they need to be secured properly. The current penalty fine for insecure loads is $243.
Lastly, police may also investigate an offence against the Animal Care and Protection Act of 2001 section 18, and offenders might need to face court charges.
Rules are also set in Victoria for irresponsible dog owners. According to Road Safety Rules section 297 (1A), a driver is prohibited from driving with a dog on their lap. Offenders might face 5 penalty units, a maximum fine of $635.
In addition, under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Regulations, a dog must not be placed in the boot of a sedan or on a tray/trailer of a motor vehicle. Drivers will pay a fine of 5 to 10 penalty units worth $635 to $1270. Victorian police strictly enforce the said regulations.
The legislation of Western Australia, specifically the Road Traffic Code section 263 (3), states that drivers must have uninterrupted or undistracted views when driving. Hence, one must not carry a dog on their lap. A $100 and 1 demerit point fine will be charged to the driver.
Further, when carrying dogs at the back of utility trucks, the dogs must be restrained and secured properly. Failure to follow these RTC provisions will incur a fine of $150.
Like any other state, South Australia implements rules and regulations for drivers who travel with their dogs. According to the Road Traffic Act of 1961 section 297, a driver must have proper control of the vehicle. Thus, dogs on the driver's lap are strictly prohibited. With no demerit points, a fine of $176 will land on the driver.
Under section 45 of the Dog and Cat Management Act of 1995, when travelling on utilities with dogs, they must not be housed in an open tray of a vehicle unless restrained. SA police thoroughly enforce this.
Similar to SA rules, a maximum fine of $1540 with 10 penalty units and no demerit will be charged to the driver caught with his dog sitting on his lap or any obstruction from freely roaming inside the car.
More so, the Dog Control Act of 2000 section 16(3) states that dogs must be sufficiently restricted when transported in utilities. Offenders will be subjected to court charges and may deal with the RSPCA or the local council of SA.
On long journeys planned ahead or just a quick drive around the town, make sure that you’re not violating any rules. Getting fines is one thing; we don't want to put our dogs and ourselves at risk.