Travelling with Pets; Do You Know the Law

Animal Welfare Queensland Law Pet Travel Posted Jul 6, 2022
As many as 500 dogs are injured or killed each year in Australia after falling from a moving vehicle.
Transporting dogs in utes is common in Queensland but comes with dangers and legal obligations many owners are not aware of. Lack of restraints and hot conditions can quickly lead to a very bad situation for a dog in the back of a moving vehicle. Dogs can be severely injured or killed after jumping out, falling out or being pushed out by tree branches or loose items in the tray. 

Under Queensland Animal Care and Protection laws, any person in charge of an animal has a duty to maintain the animal’s welfare before, during and after transport. This responsibility is shared by all people in charge of animals, not just the animal’s owner.

How to keep your dog safe in the back of ute:

1. Keep your dog in an enclosed cage 
The cage should provide adequate space and be protected from the sun, wind and rain.  

2. If you can’t use a cage, tether your dog safely to the back of the ute using a properly fitted harness.
Make sure the tether is not long enough for the dog to reach the side of the ute. Don’t use choker chains. If you need to break suddenly your dog could be strangled. 

3. Be aware of the conditions.
Queensland weather can be dangerously hot. Dogs are susceptible to heat stress and need to be protected from the elements. Ensure any metal floors are covered so that your dog has a safe place to stand. Paws can easily get burnt and dogs can suffer from painful heat blisters on their sensitive pads. Provide water when taking long journeys to help your dog stay hydrated and cool down when it’s hot. Extra shelter is required when travelling in dusty conditions as dust particles can harm dogs’ eyes, ears, nose and lungs. Don’t let your dog bark at or harass pedestrians or other animals from the tray. Not only is this bad manners, it can also cause your dog to become highly distressed and anxious.

What are the implications for not properly securing your dog?

Vehicle regulations impose fines on drivers who travel with unsecured loads on the back of a light vehicle. An unrestrained dog can be considered an unsecured load with penalties up to $2,356 for noncompliance. In addition to this, you are legally required to make sure your dog is comfortable, safe and secure during transport. Breaching the law can result in fines up to $35,340 or one year in jail.

What about dogs in regular cars?

On the other end of the spectrum, some dog owners allow their dogs to be in the driver’s area of the car, sit on their lap or nap at their feet while on the road. While it is nice to have your pet close, this can substantially interfere with your ability to drive safely and if an accident were to occur the dog would likely sustain serious injury from being thrown about. Police can issue fines up to $500 and three demerit points if they see an animal causing a driver to be not fully in control of a vehicle. The RSPCA can also issue fines under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act if an animal is injured because it was unrestrained.

How should I keep my dog safe in the car?

A popular safe option to keep your pet safe in transit is to attach your dog’s harness or collar to your back seat using a seat belt attachment. This keeps your dog in one place and ensures they won’t move too far during a crash or sudden breaking. 

RSPCA World For Pets Superstore has a range of car restraints and doggie seatbelts for sale, with all proceeds going to finding homes for animals in need. A ute dog tie will only set you back about $25 while a car safety restraint that attaches to your back seat seatbelt will set you back about $13. Attach these to your existing dog collars or harness for a safe travel experience for your pet. These simple and inexpensive accessories can give you peace of mind that your pet will be safe and you won’t be breaching the law. See links below for the items: 

Car Safety Restraint
Ute Dog Tie

Emma Lagoon
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