What is the law in New South Wales for having a dog in the car?
You're all packed up ready for the long weekend and you're taking your fur child with you for a fun-filled getaway! Dog restraint laws in NSW change often and it is important to be aware of what the regulations are regarding the safety of transporting animals.
Within this state, some offences particularly traffic offences are strict liability. This means it does not matter if you did not have the mens rea (the intention/mental state) to commit the offence, you will legally be responsible if the actus reus can be proved (the act). What does this mean for you? Effectively that ignorance of the law will be no excuse.
This article addresses the most common situations and questions, and the applicable dog-in-car law in NSW.
Most Common Questions Around Having a Dog in Your Car
1. Do I have to restrain my dog while driving? Yes.
You must not carry your pooch in a manner which unreasonably, unnecessarily or unjustifiably inflict pains upon the animal.
So how can I prevent this?
put your pup in a crate free of any items which it may get entangled in including their lead; or
use a correctly fitted harness on your pup and secure them using a dog seat belt (one end clips into the seat buckle, the other clips onto the harness).
If you do not, the act is punishable by up to 50 penalty units, calculated at $110 per unit (to a maximum fine of $5,500) (Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 s17) under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 s7) and/or 6 months imprisonment.
2. What if I drive a ute? Can I put my dog in the back of my ute?
Yes, however, you must not carry them on the open back of a moving vehicle on a public street unless your dog is restrained or enclosed in a way as to prevent your dog from falling from the vehicle.
Therefore, to prevent this, you should secure your pup in a manner suggested above or the penalty above will apply.
3. Where should a dog sit in the car?
The safest way for a best mate to ride along with you in the car is to have them secured within a specialised crate, or using a dog seat belt with a harness. Whatever method you use, they should never sit in the front seat.
Tip: Positioning them behind a front seat is the safest option.
4. Can I drive with my dog in my lap? No
No, it is a traffic offence to drive with an animal on your lap.
If you do, the act is punishable by up to 20 penalty units (a maximum fine of $2,200) under the Road Rules 2008 (NSW) r297(1A) and up to 3 or 4 demerit points, the higher penalty is applicable if the act is committed in a school zone, Road Transport (Driver Licensing) Regulation 2008 (NSW) Sch 2, r297 (1A).
5. Can I drive with my dog on the back of my motorcycle? No
No, it is an offence to ride a motorcycle with an animal on the petrol tank or between the rider and the handlebars.
If you do, the act is punishable by up to 20 penalty units (a maximum fine of $2,200) under the Road Rules 2008 (NSW) r297(3) and up to 3 or 4 demerit points, the higher penalty is applicable if the act is committed in a school zone, Road Transport (Driver Licensing) Regulation 2008 (NSW) Sch 2, r297 (3).
6. Can I leave them in the car?
This is the most common question particularly when popping in to grab something quickly or paying for petrol etc and people assume it is illegal. The issue that arises in this circumstance is again safety.
You cannot commit an act of cruelty, authorise such act or fail to take reasonable care to prevent an act of cruelty. This means failing to take reasonable steps to alleviate pain where cruelty is being inflected and where necessary, provide veterinary treatment under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 (NSW) s5.
For the purposes of the Act, an act of cruelty includes any act or omission as a consequence of which the animal is unreasonable, unnecessarily or unjustifiably:
exposed to excessive heat or excessive cold; or
inflicted with pain (defined as includes suffering and distress)
under s4 (2)(c) & (d), both of which can occur if a dog is left in a vehicle in an unsafe manner.
So how do I safely leave my dog in the car in NSW?
leave your pup in the car with another human passenger who can regulate the air conditioning or heating in the vehicle; or
leave the air conditioning on in the vehicle running and secure your vehicle with a spare key, and ensure your doggo is properly restrained so they cannot accidentally hit the hand brake, gears or accelerator/brake
Most importantly even when carrying out the above, never leave the vehicle unattended for too long. The situation in the vehicle may change and compromise your dog’s safety. For example the other human passenger may think it is ok to leave the vehicle quickly or the air conditioning may not be functioning correctly or someone may break into the vehicle.
It is insufficient to crack or leave the window down. Where possible, take your companion out of the vehicle and with you - don't risk it!
If your pup is exposed to excessive heat or cold, or is suffering and in distress due to being left in a vehicle, the act is punishable by up to 50 penalty units (a maximum fine of $5,500) under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 (NSW) s7 and/or 6 months imprisonment.
If your dog dies, suffers a deformity or serious disablement due to being left in a vehicle, the act is punishable by up to 200 penalty units (a maximum fine of $22,000) under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 (NSW) s6 and/or 2 years imprisonment.
If in doubt, never leave your fur child in the car. It’s important to always consider their health and safety first and foremost, so utilise caution and care at all times.
If you’re not sure if you should take your pup on a trip with you, we recommend booking them in to our doggy daycare. Find out more reasons to do so here.
Disclaimer: This article is intended for the purposes of educating and informing, and is not legal advice. The information provided is up to date as of 23 April 2015. You should seek independent legal advice where necessary. The writer takes no responsibility for any acts or omissions made in acting on the basis of the content.