Dogs on moving vehicles
When travelling with dogs it is the owner or custodian's duty to ensure the animal is transported appropriately and provided with its essential needs, including food, water, protection from heat or cold and a safe position on the vehicle.
What are the legal obligations of travelling with dogs in cars?
It is illegal to put dogs in the boot of a sedan type car. Dogs can travel in the cabin of the car or behind a cargo barrier in the back of wagon / SUV type vehicles. If on the back of a ute or trailer they must be appropriately tethered or caged.
When travelling, dogs must be provided with adequate ventilation. Containers must have multiple ventilation holes on at least three sides of the container.
Can dogs suffer from heat stress?
Yes, dogs in vehicles and on the back of vehicles can suffer from heat stress and exhaustion during the warmer months of the year. Dogs can dehydrate or even die from heat stress. The interior of vehicles can heat up quickly causing heat stress and potential death to dogs. Dogs must not be left in cars even on warm days due to the risk of heat stress. Even on cooler days a window should be kept down so the dog can have fresh air.
Dogs on utes need extra care in the hot weather. If using a metal cage to transport dogs, ensure it has a roof to provide shade, and that the sides are well ventilated (e.g. meshed rather than solid material). It is also advisable to cover metal floors of cages (and if tethering, the tray floor) with a surface such as rubber, as metal can heat up quickly and burn dogs' paws. In addition, ensure the cage is the right size to prevent cramping and overcrowding. And of course, when stationary, the vehicle should be parked in the shade and the dog should be left with water.
Travelling with dogs on the back of vehicles
The law in Victoria requires that dogs on utes are restrained either via a tether or cage, so that the dog cannot fall off or be injured when the vehicle moves. The only exception is for dogs that are actively working livestock.
What are the dangers of travelling with dogs on utes?
Many dogs nation-wide are killed or injured from travelling on the back of open and moving vehicles each year.
Common causes of injury are:
- dogs falling off the back of the vehicle whilst it is moving
- dogs being struck by oncoming or passing vehicles
- dogs being dragged alongside moving vehicles
- dogs attempting to jump from moving vehicles.
How can these dangers be prevented?
If a lead or chain is used to secure a dog, it must be long enough to allow the dog to sit and lie down but short enough to ensure the dog can not reach the sides of the vehicle, get onto the cabin or harass passers-by when the vehicle is parked. Long tethers can be more dangerous than none at all; if the dog does fall off the vehicle it may be dragged or strangled.
It is also important to use swivels to attach the tether to both the vehicle and the dog's collar to prevent the chain from tangling. Never use twine, thin rope or similar materials as these can cause injuries if the dog becomes tangled in the tether.
If using a cage, maximise the dog's safety and comfort by ensuring the cage is the right size to prevent cramping and overcrowding, well covered to provide shelter from sun, wind and rain and placed directly behind the cabin to minimise exposure to dust and wind.
Travelling safely with dogs inside vehicles
For best practice, it is recommended that dogs travel in the cabin of the vehicle and are kept either on the backseat in a restraining device or in the open cargo area of a wagon type vehicle behind a cargo barrier.
Dogs need to be adequately restrained when travelling inside a vehicle for the safety of both the dog and human passengers. Unrestrained dogs can cause accidents and should never be allowed in the vicinity of the driver. In the case of an accident, an unrestrained dog may become a projectile and can damage itself and / or the occupants of the vehicle.
Dogs should not be allowed to travel with their head out of the car window; particles of dirt can enter a dog's eyes, ears and nose, causing injury or infection.
If going on a long trip carry dog food, water and a leash and stop regularly to allow the dog some exercise and a toilet break.
Remember, if you love your dog look after it and restrain it when travelling!
The Victorian Code of Practice for the Private Keeping of Dogs contains more information on travelling safely with dogs.