While lessons on how best to look after an animal while in the comfort of your own home are well publicised and readily available, the same cannot be said for animal driving safety.
Whether it be transporting your dog on holiday with you, taking your canary to a friends house, or running your cat to the vet, it is important to know exactly how to keep your animals safe in the vehicle.
Luckily, there are plenty of laws, guides, and products available to guide you on this matter, if you know where to look. In this article, we have collected all of these sources and put them together in one place.
Are there any laws on driving with animals in Australia?
The laws on driving with an animal in the vehicle vary from state to state in Australia.
The one common law that remains consistent no matter where you are in the country is one regarding driving with an animal on your lap.
It is illegal in Australia to drive in such a position, as an animal on your lap could increase the chance of an accident.
Whether it be distracting you from the road, blocking your view, interfering with your steering capabilities, restricting your ability to use the pedals, or anything else, the law is clear on this matter.
While the fines for such an offence also vary from state to state, they are usually above $200, coming with a few points on your license too.
Other rules that remain a standard across Australia include:
- Pets cannot be placed between the handlebars and rider while on the move
- While transporting a dog in a ute, they must be restrained, ensuring they cannot fall
- A person within a vehicle cannot lead a walking animal while in motion
The Department of Transport of Western Australian also recommends that
“when transporting an animal in a vehicle the driver must ensure the animal(s) are properly restrained to prevent injury in the event of an accident”View the regulations for WA
How can I make driving with my pet in the car a safe experience?
1. Use some sorts of car restraints
Car restraints for dogs
The most common and effective way to keep your animal safe while driving in the car is to use some form of restraints. This keeps your pet secure, preventing them from jumping out of the moving vehicle or interfering with your driving.
For dogs, harnesses or car tethers can be purchased that fit into the seatbelt attachments in the rear of your vehicle. You can buy these harnesses online or from pet stores, choosing one that fits the size of your dog.
You can additionally buy dog car seats to increase both the level of safety and comfort.
You can also stop them from trying to jump to the front car seat with pet car seat barriers you can install quickly.
Car restraints for cats
When it comes to cats, they are often far less receptive to travelling by road than dogs.
Therefore, the only safe way to transport your feline friend is within the safety of a cat carrier, which can then be secured in the rear of the car using the seatbelt attachments.
Car restraints for animals in cages
For birds, transporting using a cage is often the best option, while other small animals such as lizards, hamsters, guinea pigs, etc can travel in the same way.
You can purchase a number of the products you need on sites such as Kmart, with pet car seats, seatbelts, boot covers, and door covers currently available HERE.
2. Never leave them unattended
No matter what animal you are transporting, you must never leave them unattended in the vehicle. Leaving a pet in a hot vehicle while you pop out to run an errand causes hundreds of animal deaths each and every year across Australia.
Even if the environment is cool and safe, the pet can still suffer from separation anxiety, especially in such a small environment.
It is also worth noting that you should never restrain your pet within the vehicle in such a way that they are left in direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time. Use blankets or cover the windows to provide cool and consistent shade for your pet.
How can I make driving with my pet in the car a safe enjoyable?
Now that you have made sure that the travel is safe for your beloved pet, it is time to ensure that it is also a pleasant experience. Some animals take to travelling more than others, while some are left feeling anxious by the entire experience.
Therefore, as any animal behaviourist or vet will tell you, it is important to ensure that they feel comfortable, safe, and distracted during the trip.
1. For long trips, feed and hydrate them and pack up some treats
If you are expecting to be on the road for more than thirty minutes, make sure to give your pet a good meal and a drink of water before setting off. If you are going to be longer than this, it is a good idea to take snacks to keep them well-fed and happy.
2. Some fresh air might help
Open the windows in the back just enough so that fresh air can circulate throughout the vehicle for your animal.
However, no matter how much dogs seem to enjoy it, do not leave a gap big enough for them to stick their heads, noses, or paws outside of the vehicle. This is simply not safe.
3. Bring items they love and comfort them
If your animal has a selection of favourite toys, treats, blankets, or anything similar, it is always a good idea to take them along.
This will help to ease any anxiety, making them feel safe, secure, and at home in the moving vehicle.
4. Maybe bring some company?
If you have a passenger coming on the journey with you, and your pet is familiar with that person, it can be nice to have them sit in the back.
This will allow them to provide comfort to the pet during the long journey, allowing your cat or dog to see a friendly face as yours will likely be out of view as you drive.
5. Make it easy for them to go in and lay down
If you have a small dog or one that has hip issues, get some steps so they can go in and out slowly and bit by bit.
For big dogs, back seat extenders and blankets can allow your dogs to comfortably settle in.
For cats, get a carrier with mesh to allow them to see and smell the air. Lay a blanket with they have used in the past so their scent is already on it.
6. Don’t forget to reward
If your pet is behaving well while you’re driving (no barking, no hissing, relaxed), a treat or a pat will be a great way to reward and reinforce this behaviour.