Driver Knowledge Tests

How to carry pets in your car

An unrestrained dog or cat in your back seat can become a furry (and toothy) missile that will smash its way through the driver, passenger and/or windscreen. We don’t want that.

Transporting your pet in the cabin

Fortunately we can strap our pet into the back seat just like we strap our children in using a proper harness. These harness fit under the chest and around the neck of the dog, and attach to the seat belt. They’re designed to allow the dog to sit or lie down comfortably, and prevent them moving around the cabin or sticking their head out of the window (which is bad for their eyes and ears, and is illegal).

You can also transport a dog in the boot of a station wagon (assuming you’re not carrying anything else in the boot which might injure it as it moves around). You’ll need a cargo net which extends from the top of the rear passenger seats to the roof to prevent the dog jumping into the back, or being propelled forwards in an accident or under heavy braking. Of course, the dog in this situation could still be injured hitting the back of the passenger seats.

It is illegal to transport a dog in the enclosed boot of a car.

Cats can be transported in a cat cage. They should not be allowed to wander around free in the car as they can get under your feet, obstructing your ability to brake, which might cause an accident.

Dogs and cats should not be transported on your lap while driving.

Hot weather

In hot weather, the interior of your vehicle can be 60+ degrees Celsius after only a few minutes.┬áThis can kill a pet. Leaving a window open doesn’t make it OK. Dogs and cats don’t have the ability to lose heat by sweating like humans do. Make sure you bring food and water for your pet.

Transporting your dog in or on a ute

The best place for a dog is in the rear seat or passenger seat using a proper harness. However, you can transport your dog on the ute tray.

Tethering your dog to the cab

This is the least preferable option as it exposes your dog to getting dust, dirt and insects in its eyes or ears which will end up costing you in vets bills, and isn’t comfortable for the dog.

Use a thick lead or a chain with a swivel at both ends to prevent it from becoming tangled; don’t use thin cords like twine or wire. It’s preferable to use a proper harness rather than just a collar. Definitely do not use a choker collar as this can strangle your dog if it tries to jump off the side, or if you brake heavily. The lead or chain should be long enough to allow the dog to sit or lie down comfortably, but not so long that it can jump off the side.

Secure the lead or chain to the mid-point of the cabin to protect the dog as much as possible.

Any loose equipment on your ute tray should be fastened down to prevent it moving and crushing or injuring your dog.

Transporting your dog in a cage

This is the safest way for passersby and for the dog. The dog can’t bite anyone walking past the ute and it has some protection from other objects on the ute tray. A cage should be the right size for the dog, sheltered from the wind and rain, and placed centrally behind the cabin.

If you use a container rather than a cage, it must be adequately ventilated.

Hot and dry conditions

Hot and dry conditions are more dusty which is bad for your dog’s eyes, nose, lungs and ears. Your dog will also be at risk of overheating and dehydration.

Your legal obligations when transporting pets

You are legally required to:

  • ensure that your dog does not harm passersby by biting them
  • provide safe and comfortable transport for your pet which doesn’t breach animal welfare standards.

An unrestrained pet can be considered an unsecured load on the back of a light vehicle like a ute. This means you could be fined.

Darren is an expert on driving and transport, and is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists

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