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Do I need to restrain my dog when travelling in my car?

Article ID: 303
Last updated: 11 Dec, 2014
Revision: 5
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It's important that owners make sure their pet will be comfortable and safe during car transport. The laws regarding restraint of dogs in or on vehicles can vary between the states/territories. We recommend that you check:

  1. The Road Traffic Authority (or equivalent) Road rules.
  2. Check with the relevant state government department responsible for animal welfare or the relevant state RSPCA to check the Animal Welfare laws that apply to transporting dogs in or on vehicles.

Restraining a dog in a car may provide several safety benefits both to the dog and the occupants of the car:

  • the dog cannot move around within the car and therefore has less potential to distract or disrupt the driver.
  • in a collision, the dog may be less likely to become a projectile thereby potentially decreasing the risk of injury to the driver or passengers.
  • restraint may prevent the dog from jumping out of a moving car’s window which may reduce the risk of injury to the dog and other road users.

Vehicle restraints for dogs are widely available and include restraints that either attach to existing seat belts or have buckles that clip directly into the seat belt. Generally, restraints may be attached to the dog’s collar or harness. 

Some groups advocate the use of pet transport containers or crates (appropriately secured within the car). This may reduce the ability of the dog to disrupt or distract the driver and may also reduce the likelihood of a dog becoming a projectile during a collision. They may also prevent the dog from jumping out of the car. While RSPCA Australia does not have a specific policy on the appropriate restraint of dogs in cars we do have a policy regarding containers for transport. The container should enable the animal to lie down comfortably in a natural position, turn around, stand and sit erect and stretch with clearance.

Another method, for drivers with station wagons, is to put the dog behind a cargo barrier.

Never leave your dog unattended in a car. Dogs die very quickly from heat stress, even in mild weather.

At this stage, RSPCA Australia considers that further research using non-animal models is needed to determine the safest and most effective way of restraining dogs and other pets in cars in order to reduce the risk of injury to the animal, driver; other occupants in the car and other road users.


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folder What do I need to know about taking my dog on a road trip with my family?

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folder Companion animals -> Travelling with your pet

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