What are the road rules for driving with pets and animals?

What are the road rules for driving with pets and animals?


Pets are our best friends. They’re the yin to our yang. So naturally, we like to take them with us on day trips to the beach, road trips, and holidays. Especially here in Queensland, with so much natural beauty to enjoy. So, it’s safe to say Australians love their animals, and why wouldn’t we?

According to a survey conducted by Animal Medicines Australia, 69% of Australian households own a pet. Of these, 50% can lay claim to giving at least one dog a good home, and 30% call a cat their furry companion. But understanding what’s allowed and what’s not when driving can be tricky.

The road rules for driving with pets and animals can vary from one state to another. Always make sure to check online as to what the current rules are in your locality, but here are some links you may find useful for each state:

To ease confusion, here’s what you need to know before taking your trusted companion on its next car trip in Queensland.

Can you drive with your pet on your lap?

We’ve all seen someone driving with a furry friend nestled in their lap.

It might surprise you to learn that this is an official driving offence in Queensland. And that goes for any type of animal too. Section 297(1A) of the Queensland Transport Operations (Road Use Management—Road Rules) Regulation, states “A driver must not drive a vehicle if a person or an animal is in the driver’s lap.”

If you’re found driving with an animal in your lap, the offence carries a maximum consequence of up to 20 penalty units.

Are you required to restrain your pet when driving?

So, if you can’t have an animal in your lap, how can you travel with your pet?

Although it is a legal requirement to restrain an animal while driving in Tasmania, there are no such laws in Queensland.

However, if an incident occurs and your animal is deemed to have interfered with your ability to drive safely, you can be charged with an offence in the region of $500 and three demerit points. Examples include an unrestrained animal jumping onto your lap, blocking your window view or jumping around and causing an airbag to release.

Therefore, for your safety, your pet and other road users, it is recommended that you take the necessary precautions and restrain them. Consider these tips the next time you go driving:

  • If you have a dog, RSPCA Queensland recommends attaching your dog’s leash or harness to the back seat using a seat belt attachment.
  • For other animals, pet carriers are a good way of keeping them contained. Pet stores provide a range of different car harnesses and other products designed for safe travelling in a motor vehicle.
  • Although it’s understandable to want your pet sitting next to you, avoid letting them sit in the front seat. If a passenger seat airbag was to release it could cause the animal serious harm.
  • Always keep your vehicle well ventilated and ensure your pet has enough water for the journey to avoid becoming dehydrated.
  • Ensure your pet cannot jump from its seat or hang out of the window.


What about driving with your pet on the back of a ute?

We can all picture a dog in the back of a ute. A classic Australian image. Make sure you are following the correct guidelines when travelling to ensure your furry friend is safe.

A study by RSPCA Queensland determined that nearly 500 dogs per year in Australia are injured or killed after falling from a moving vehicle.

If a dog travelling in the back of a ute is not restrained correctly, it can be considered an unsecured load. In terms of vehicle regulations, this is classified as non-compliance and subject to a penalty. Instances of failing to secure a load on the back of a light vehicle (ute) carry fines of up to $2,356.

Additionally, under Queensland Animal Care and Protection laws, drivers are legally required to ensure your dog is comfortable, safe, and secure while travelling on the back of a ute. Non-compliance with these laws can carry fines upwards of $35,340 or one year in jail.

So, what are the guidelines for keeping your dog comfortable, safe, and secure?

  • If possible, keep your dog secured in an enclosed cage that delivers a comfortable amount of space.
  • If a cage is not possible, use your dog’s harness or leash to safely secure them to the back of the ute. A good place for this is the bar or cage that backs directly onto the rear window. Avoid choker chains and ensure the leash or harness is a suitable length that prevents them from reaching over the side of the vehicle.
  • Always be conscious of changing weather conditions, especially here in Queensland. Dogs are often susceptible to heat stress, so keeping them safe from the sun is essential. And for long journeys, ensure the dog has sufficient water to stay hydrated.

Whether it’s a road trip to the Daintree or just a casual Sunday afternoon drive, be aware of these road rules and tips for keeping your animals comfortable, safe, and secure. Because, after all, they are part of the family.


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