We Australians love our furry friends, so it makes sense that we like to take them everywhere we go! But is it illegal to drive with a pet in Australia? First, the quick answer, then a slightly longer one. Plus, read on for some extra tips on driving with your pet safely.

Is it Illegal to Drive With a Pet in Australia?

The quick answer is no, it’s not illegal to drive with a pet in Australia. However, there are a variety of laws and safety measures you need to follow to ensure your pet is secure in your vehicle, along with a few things you should never, ever do.

A man driving a convertible with two dogs in the back, is it illegal to do this, to drive with pets in Australia?

Rules for Driving With a Pet in Australia

Laws on driving with pets in Australia vary from state to state. However, there’s one rule for driving with pets that’s consistent across the country and will land you a fine if you break it. That rule is driving with an animal in your lap.

It’s illegal to drive with a pet in your lap, and it’s dangerous for a few reasons. The main reason is your canine or feline companion could move in a way that blocks your view, interferes with steering or impedes your ability to brake or accelerate. Fines vary across the states, but they’re mostly in excess of $200, with the loss of demerit points as well.

For detailed information about the rules in your state, contact your local transport department on the links below:

Other nation-wide rules for driving with pets in Australia include:

  • Motorcycle riders must not ride with animals between the handlebars and the rider.
  • Dogs on utes must be restrained so the dog can’t fall off or be injured.
  • Animals should be seated or housed in an appropriate area of the car.
  • A bicycle rider, motorbike rider or driver must not lead an animal, including tethering, while the vehicle is in motion.

Finally, the RSPCA can issue whopping fines and you actually risk time in jail, if you’re found to breach laws that help keep your pet safe, comfortable and secure while driving. So, while it’s not illegal to drive with a pet in Australia, it is illegal to drive in a way that put animals in danger.

A dog poking his head out of the window of a car driving with pets

Is it Dangerous to Drive with Pet?

When your pet is properly secured in the car, it isn’t dangerous to drive with an animal. If your pet is unrestrained, you run the risk of some pretty bad outcomes. The RSPCA estimates about 5,000 dogs are injured each year due to falls from moving vehicles.

If you have to swerve or brake quickly, unsecured pets can be thrown around in the car, just like humans not wearing seat belts. An unrestrained pet can also be a dangerous distraction that leads to accidents, especially if the animal is distressed.

How to Keep Your Pet Safe in the Car

We wear seatbelts when we drive, and pets should be restrained to minimise accidents and injury. When pets can’t move around freely they’re less distracting to the driver. Keeping your pet secured also reduces the risk of window jumps, or pets getting thrown around in the case of heavy braking or a crash. Additionally, your pet should always travel in the back seat, especially if your car is fitted with airbags.

What’s the best way to secure your pet in a car? There are a lot of options to choose from, depending on the size of your pet. For dogs, a dog harness can be secured to the back seat with a seat belt attachment. You can buy custom-made car harnesses to suit the size of your dog, as well as a range of booster seats and back seat covers for extra comfort and security. 

Cats tend to be harder to travel with, because most simply don’t enjoy the adventure like dogs do! Your best bet is a well-ventilated cat carrier or secure container, complete with blanket, treats, or toys. Secure the carrier to the back seat with seat belt attachment so it won’t move about. With both cats and dogs you should also consider how much direct sun is coming into the car, and block some of it on warm days.

That leads to another important rule. Never leave an animal unattended in the car. Hot cars are responsible for hundreds of animal deaths a year. Even on a cold day, separation anxiety can lead to serious distress for the rest of your trip.

A dog poking its head out from the back seat of a car, but is it illegal to drive with a pet in Australia?

Is it illegal to drive with dogs in the back of a ute?

It’s not illegal to drive with dogs in the back of a ute, as long as they’re properly restrained. It’s all too easy for pets to jump from moving vehicles or to get hit by tree branches and other objects. Restraining pets in the back of a ute is not only a legal requirement, it’s essential to keep your pet safe.

The best way to keep dogs safe in the back of a ute is to use an enclosed cage that’s big enough for your dog, covered for shelter, and placed securely behind the cabin to decrease exposure to debris from the road.

To tether your pup to the back of a ute or truck, make sure the lead is secured to a dog harness or a neck collar in the middle of the tray. The length of the lead should let your pet move about enough to be comfortable, but not so long that the dog can reach the sides of the vehicle. In the case of hot conditions, make sure you provide a covering over metal surfaces that might heat up quickly, as well as access to water.

Can I drive with a pet in a GoGet?

If you’re a GoGet member, you’ve got lots of choices when you want to hit the road with your pet. You’ve got the choice of a pet-friendly car or a normal GoGet.

  • Pet-friendly GoGet. A pet-friendly GoGet comes with a plastic hammock you can use to cover the back seat, keeping it clean and clear of pet hair for the next driver. Once the hammock is down you’re more than welcome to put your pet in the back seat without a pet carrier. There’s also a hair roller in the car, which you can use to clean any extra hair that gets left behind.
  • Normal GoGet cars. Pets are welcome in any GoGet car if they’re in a pet carrier.

Travel Tips for Keeping Pets Happy in the Car

Lastly, there are a few things you can do to keep your pet happy on road trips.

  • If you’re on the road for more than half an hour, give your pet a small meal before you leave, and take snacks for the journey.
  • While dogs love the feel of wind on their faces, it’s not safe to let them hang their noses or paws out of a window due to possible falls and flying debris. Open the window enough to allow air circulation, but not so much that your dog can pop its nose out.
  • If your pet has favourite bedding or toys, take them along to provide some home comforts.

Follow the rules and tips on this page and you’ll not just be able to drive safely with your pet, you’ll have an awesome road trip as well!

A dog standing in front of a car with it's doors open

This post shouldn’t be regarded as legal advice. Check that this information applies to your circumstances by speaking with your local road authority.