Travelling with dogs

When travelling with dogs it is the owner or person in charge's duty to make sure the animal is transported appropriately and provided with its essential needs, including:

  • food
  • water
  • protection from heat or cold
  • a safe position on the vehicle.

Legal obligations when travelling with dogs

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (POCTA) Act and Regulations include several mandatory requirements for traveling with dogs in or on a vehicle:

It is illegal to:

  • put dogs in the boot of a sedan type car
  • leave an animal unattended inside a car for more than 10 minutes when outside temperatures are at or above 28 degrees Celsius
  • transport a dog if it is not appropriately tethered or caged on back of ute or trailer
  • secure a dog on the metal tray of a ute or trailer when outside temperatures are at or above 28 degrees Celsius without the dog having access to an area of insulating material protecting the dog from contact with the metal surface.

Dogs can travel in the cabin of the car or behind a cargo barrier in the back of wagon or SUV type vehicle.

When travelling, dogs must be provided with effective ventilation to avoid heat or cold stress.

Dogs and heat stress

 Dog sitting in ute tray

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.

  • Park the vehicle in the shade.
  • Leave your dog 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
  • being struck by oncoming or passing vehicles
  • being dragged alongside moving vehicles
  • attempting to jump from moving vehicles.

How to prevent these dangers

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 and short enough so the dog cannot:

  • reach the sides of the vehicle
  • get onto the cabin
  • harass passers-by when the vehicle is parked.

Long tethers can be more dangerous than not using one. If the dog does fall off the vehicle it can 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
  • placed directly behind the cabin to minimise exposure to dust and wind
  • well ventilated (mesh rather than solid material).

Travelling safely with dogs inside vehicles

Dog lying on rug in rear of wagon

Best practice is for dogs to travel in the cabin of the vehicle and are kept either:

  • on the backseat using an appropriate seatbelt or restraining device
  • in the open cargo area of a 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 can become a projectile and damage itself and people in 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 you are going on a long trip carry:

  • dog food
  • water
  • a leash.

Make sure you stop regularly for your dog to exercise and have 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.

Page last updated: 06 Jul 2020