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Dogs in Cars: Laws from Around The World [2019 & 2020]

When taking your dog for a ride in your car, you want to ensure that he is safe. Dogs are often seen as an extension of the family, so it’s not a surprise they are regular passengers on our roads. But could you be breaking the law while road tripping with your dog?

Traveling with dogs in cars, if not done correctly, can be a real hazard. Unrestrained dogs can be a huge distraction to the driver, which in turn puts other passengers and other drivers on the road in danger. This is why many countries, states, provinces and territories have specific laws for restraining dogs in cars. Laws for dogs in cars vary widely around the world. The UK, many states in the US and Australia have strict rules when it comes to driving with dogs in cars. Dog owners around the world can face large fines for driving with an unrestricted dog, and can even face jail time in serious cases. Additionally, there are laws in place protecting dogs from being left in unattended cars. Again, these laws vary between countries and states, but generally protect dogs from extreme heat, cold or from a lack of ventilation, food or water.

The law in some areas can be rather ambiguous, so, in this article we will discuss in detail, each of the laws for dogs in cars around the world.




What are the dogs in cars laws?

Many owners take their dogs for rides in their car on a regular basis, whether it’s a short drive to the vet, or a longer journey visiting friends or family. However, many pet owners are unaware of the laws for dogs in cars. Many countries have put laws in place for drivers with animal passengers in their vehicles.

1. Dog car restraint laws

Generally, laws are put in place to protect dogs, drivers, passengers and others on the road. Dogs can be huge distractions to drivers, and quickly become a hazard if unrestrained. There are many different restraint methods which are recommended, including crates, dog seat belts, and dog car harnesses. We will discuss these different dog car restraint methods in detail later on.

Laws on restraining dogs in cars vary hugely between countries, states, provinces and territories. Some more strict countries, such as the England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, require all dogs to be restrained when traveling in or on a vehicle.

On the other hand, in some countries, such as Australia, Canada and the US, laws differ between states and provinces. Generally, legislations on restraining dogs in cars include some or all of the following:

  • It is illegal to transport a dog on the back of an open truck. If you must transport your dog in the back of a truck, the safest method is in a secured crate in the centre of your truck box;
  • It is illegal to transport a dog in a closed trunk;
  • It is illegal for drivers to travel with dogs in their laps;
  • It is illegal to lead a dog outside of a vehicle whilst it is moving.

In many places, laws can be rather ambiguous. For example, in many states in the US the law does not specify that dogs must be restrained within a moving vehicle. However, there are laws that ban distracted driving. There have been many cases where unrestrained dogs have led to drivers facing a fine for distracted driving. A law enforcement officer may choose to charge any driver they believe does not have proper control of their vehicle due to a loose dog.


2. Laws on leaving dogs unattended in vehicles

Many countries, provinces, territories and states have laws in place to protect dogs from being left unattended in vehicles. This is for good reason. Every year, many dogs suffer and even die when their owners leaving them in a parked car. Parked cars are deathtraps for dogs, particularly on a hot summer day. On a 78ºF day, the temperature inside a parked vehicle can soar to 100ºF within minutes, and on a 90ºF day, the temperature can reach as high as 109ºF in under 10 minutes!

Although in many places the law is ambiguous, generally, if conditions are deemed cruel, owners can face large fines for animal cruelty. In most places, you must not leave or confine an animal in any unattended vehicle or enclosed container under any conditions that could endanger the health or well-being of the animal. These conditions can include the vehicle being too hot, too cold, without adequate ventilation or lack of food or water.




What are the dogs in cars laws for the UK (England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales)?

All dogs must be restrained with a dog seat belt, dog car harness, pet carrier, cage or dog guard.

This law has been put in place to prevent distracted driving and to ensure the welfare of animals.

Driving with your dog on your lap, or even unrestrained on your back seat can be as distracting as texting or talking on the phone. Just one second of distraction is all it takes to be part of a road accident. So, even just petting your dog, tossing him a treat or taking a quick picture is very dangerous. It is dangerous not only for you and your dog, but for everyone else on the road. Runa Hanaghan, the deputy veterinary director of The Dogs Trust, spelled out the danger, saying: “It’s important to restrain dogs in the car both for their own safety and that of everyone else. If an accident happens, the dog can be thrown forward and injured. It can also act like a missile within the vehicle and hit other occupants.”

The UK law recommends that drivers restrain dogs with use of a dog seat belt, dog car harness, a guard for larger dogs, or a crate or carrier for smaller ones.


What are the penalties for driving with an unrestrained dog?

Drivers caught with unrestrained dogs in their vehicles, could potentially face a huge fine of up to £2,500 and nine driving licence points. In extreme cases, it could even lead to a driving ban. If you are shocked at this news, you are not alone. Research conducted by Confused.com found that more than half the drivers (64%) were unaware of the potential penalties for driving with an unrestrained dog. There’s no direct penalty, however, drivers could be pulled over by police and accused of driving without due care and attention.

Additionally, driving with an unrestrained dog can also affect a driver’s car insurance. Firstly, those involved in a road accident caused by an unrestrained dog driving can invalidate the driver’s insurance. Therefore, they would be personally responsible for paying for any repairs in the event of a claim. Additionally, dog owners should expect a jump in their future insurance payments.




What are the dogs in cars law for America (US)?

The US laws on dogs in cars vary between states.

Connecticut, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Rhode Island all ban unrestrained dogs being transported in the open section of a vehicle. In these states, dogs traveling in the exterior part of a vehicle must be restrained with use of a dog crate, that usually need to comply with specific rules:

  • it must be constructed to prevent an animal from escaping;
  • it must be constructed to allow the animal to have good footing, protection from inclement weather and adequate ventilation;
  • it must be durable and kept in good repair;
  • it must be large enough to enable the animal to turn around normally, to stand and sit erect and to lie in a natural position;
  • it must be secured to the motor vehicle.

However, most states do not have specific laws requiring the use of dog car restraint methods inside the enclosed area of a vehicle. Currently, the only state in which driving with loose pets in a vehicle is an animal cruelty law violation is New Jersey. Here, law enforcement officers can stop drivers who fail to transport dogs properly, such as having dogs on their laps. Drivers who violate animal transport laws can face fines ranging between $250 and $1,000. In extreme cases, they can even face six months in jail.

In other states, the law can be rather ambiguous. For example. while the laws in Nevada and Washington don’t specifically require restraint, they focus on safety and cruelty to animals. Therefore if law enforcement officers feel that transportation of a dog is cruel or inhumane, drivers could face a charge for animal cruelty.

Additionally, although legislations may not specifically ban drivers from traveling with dogs in their laps, drivers in Maine, Connecticut and Arizona can be charged under the existing distracted driving law. In Connecticut, a driver will potentially face 2 points and steep fines – $150 for a first offense, $300 for a second offense, and $500 for a third or subsequent offense.

Not only are there laws on dog car restraint, a number of states also have laws in place to protect dogs from being left in unattended vehicles. Many states now ban a person leaving a dog in conditions in the motor vehicle that can endanger the animal’s life. This includes extreme hot or cold temperatures, lack of sufficient ventilation, or failing to provide proper food or water. Penalties for leaving an animal unattended in a motor vehicle in dangerous conditions vary from state to state, with fines ranging from a couple hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. In extreme cases, drivers face possible jail time or imprisonment.

For further information on the individual state laws on dogs in cars, please refer to the table below.

STATE DOG CAR RESTRAINT: LAWS IN PLACE LAWS PROTECTING DOGS LEFT IN CARS
Alabama

Ambiguous

Alabama does not currently have a law requiring dog seat belts or dog car harnesses during transportation in a vehicle. However, animal cruelty laws may be invoked if a police officer feels the transportation violates animal welfare laws or endangers the dog.
Alaska

No

There is no law requiring dog car restraint. However, individual cities may have their own laws regarding unrestrained dogs in open pickup trucks. Home city council banned the practice under Ordinance 16 38(S), and included restrictions on animals loose in the vehicle or on the driver’s lap.
Arizona

Ambiguous

Arizona does not currently have a law specifically requiring dog car restraint. However, drivers may be charged under existing distracted driving laws if they drive with an animal in their lap. This may also be the case if a police officer deems the transportation method unsafe for the dog. Yes
Arkansas

No

There is no law in Arkansas which requires dog seat belts, or crates. However, if a police officer feels that the transportation is cruel or unsafe, they may ticket the driver.
California

No

While California does not have a law requiring the restraint of dogs within the enclosed space of a vehicle during transportation, dogs riding in the bed of a truck must be cross tethered to the vehicle or secured in a crate or cage, per Vehicle Code section 23117. Though there is no official law has passed regarding dogs riding in laps, the LAPD can choose to issue a ticket for people driving with dogs on their laps. Yes
Colorado

No

There is no law in Colorado requiring dog car restraint, however, an anti-distracted driving campaign highlights looking after dogs as a distraction while driving. Yes
Connecticut

Yes

Connecticut does not currently have a law requiring dogs to be restrained or secured while riding inside a vehicle. However, drivers may still be charged under existing distracted driving laws if they drive with a dog sat in their lap. Additionally, dogs being transported in an open truck bed must be in a crate or cage, or must be secured to prevent them from falling, jumping, or being thrown from the vehicle. Yes
D.C.

No

There is no law in Washington, D.C. which requires a dog to be restrained while driving.
Delaware

No

There is no law in Delaware which requires dog car restraint while driving. Yes
Florida

No

There is no law in Florida which requires a dog to wear a seat belt or be contained in a crate during transport. Yes
Georgia

No

There is no law in Georgia which requires dog car restraint whilst driving.
Hawaii

Ambiguous

In Hawaii, it’s illegal to drive a vehicle with a pet on your lap. Besides holding a pet in the lap, this also includes allowing it to be in a driver’s immediate area.
Idaho

No

There is no law in Idaho which requires a dog to be restrained whilst being transported in a vehicle.
Illinois

No

There is no law in Illinois which requires dog car restraint whilst driving. Yes
Indiana

No

There is no law in Indiana which requires a dog to wear a seat belt or be contained in a crate during transport. Yes
Iowa Ambiguous There is no law in Iowa which requires dog car restraint whilst in a moving vehicle. However, Iowa code 321.363 does state that driving with an obstructed view is an operating violation that may make you liable for a fine.
Kansas

No

There is no law in Kansas which requires dog car restraint whilst driving. Yes
Kentucky

No

There is no law in Kentucky which requires dog car restraint whilst driving.
Louisiana

No

There is no law in Louisiana which requires a dog to wear a seat belt or be contained in a crate during transport. Yes
Maine

Yes

Maine does not currently have a law requiring dogs to wear seat belts or be secured during transportation within an enclosed section of a vehicle. However, law dictates that a dog cannot be transported in the open portion of a vehicle. Additionally, drivers caught with dogs on their laps can be charged under the existing distracted driving law. Yes
Maryland

No

Maryland does not currently have a law requiring dogs to wear seat belts or be secured during transportation. However, the 2013 Maryland Transportation Code Section 21 1104 states a person may not drive a vehicle on a highway with any object, material, or obstruction. This could apply to dogs riding in the driver’s lap. Yes
Massachusetts

Yes

Massachusetts does not currently have a law requiring dogs to wear seat belts when riding inside a vehicle. However, dogs being transported in the back of a pickup truck must be properly restrained. The sides and tailgate of the vehicle must reach a certain height and dogs must must be secured within a crate or cage, or properly cross tethered to the vehicle.

Furthermore, the law states that no person, when operating a motor vehicle, shall permit to be on or in the vehicle or on or about his person anything which may interfere with or impede the proper operation of the vehicle or any equipment by which the vehicle is operator or controlled.

Additionally, dog owners may face a fine if the police feel that the animal is being transported in a cruel and inhumane way, or if they appear in danger.

Yes
Michigan

Proposed

House Bill 5277 prohibits the operation of a vehicle with a dog in the driver’s lap. A fine of $100 for a first violation or $200 for subsequent violations has been proposed. The bill was referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, but has not yet become law.
Minnesota

Yes

Minnesota does not currently have a law requiring restraint of a dog within the cab of a vehicle during transportation. However, the law does mention requirements while transporting animals in the open area of a truck. If improper restraint is used, an owner can be found guilty of a misdemeanour. Yes
Mississippi

Ambiguous

Mississippi does not currently have a law requiring dogs to wear seat belts or be secured during transportation. However, the Mississippi Dog and Cat Pet Protection Law of 2011, MS Code Section 97 41 16, makes it a misdemeanour to “carry or confine in a cruel manner”. This could apply to transporting a dog without proper attention to safety.
Missouri

No

There is no law in Missouri which requires a dog to be restrained during transportation.
Montana

No

There is no law in Montana which requires dog car restraint methods to be used during transportation.
Nebraska

No

There is no law in Nebraska which requires a dog to wear a seat belt or be contained in a crate during transportation.
Nevada

No

There is no law in Nevada which requires a dog to be restrained during transportation, however, the statute NRS 574.190 bans “cruel and inhumane” methods of transporting animals. Yes
New Hampshire

Yes

There is no law in New Hampshire which requires use of a dog seat belt or dog car crate during transportation within the cab of a vehicle, however, dogs being transported in the back of a truck must be properly restrained. Thus. the sides and tailgate of the vehicle reach a certain height and dogs must be secured within a crate, or properly cross tethered to the vehicle. Yes
New Jersey

Yes

Driving with loose pets in a vehicle is an animal cruelty law violation in New Jersey. Law enforcement officers can stop drivers who fail to transport dogs properly, such as having dogs on their laps. Drivers who violate animal transport laws can face fines ranging between $250 and $1,000. In extreme cases, they can even face six months in jail. Yes
New Mexico

No

There is no law in New Mexico which requires dogs to be restrained or contained in a crate during transportation.
New York

No

There is no law in New York which requires dogs to be restrained with a dog seat belt, dog car harness or crate during transportation. Yes
North Carolina

No

There is no law in North Carolina which requires dogs to be restrained or contained in a crate during transportation. Yes
North Dakota

Ambiguous

There is no law in North Dekota which requires dogs to be restrained with a dog seat belt, dog car harness or crate during transportation. Yes
Ohio

Ambiguous

There is no specific law against transporting unrestrained dogs. However, Ohio’s current cruelty to animals laws state that no person shall carry or convey an animal in a cruel or inhumane manner. Yes
Oklahoma

Ambiguous

There is no law in Oklahoma that specifically requires restraint of a dog during transportation. However, Oklahoma’s current cruelty to animals statutes state that it is a misdemeanour to transport a dog in a vehicle in a cruel or inhumane manner.
Oregon

No

There is no specific law that requires restraint of a dog within a vehicle. However, the law in Oregon requires a dog riding outside of a vehicle’s cab to be secured by framework, carrier or other device sufficient to keep it from falling from the vehicle. Yes
Pennsylvania

No

There is no specific law in Pennsylvania that requires restraint of a dog within a vehicle. Yes
Rhode Island

Yes

Rhode Island requires dogs being transported in a vehicle either secured within a crate, restrained with a harness or dog seat belt designed for use in a vehicle. It also allows the physical control of a person other than the driver of the vehicle. Violation of the law carries a fine of up to $200 depending on the number of offenses. Yes
South Carolina

Ambiguous

There is no law in South Carolina which requires dog car restraint. However, if an officer considers the situation unsafe, you can be ticketed for negligence or another offense, such as if your view is obstructed.
South Dakota

No

There is no specific law in South Dekota that requires restraint of a dog within a vehicle. Yes
Tennessee

Ambiguous

There is no law in Tennessee which requires dog car restraint. However, current cruelty to animals statues make it illegal to transport or confine an animal in a cruel manner. Yes
Texas

Ambiguous

There is no law in Texas which requires dog car restraint. However, current cruelty to animals statues make it illegal to transport or confine an animal in a cruel manner.
Utah

Ambiguous

There is no law in Utah which requires dog car restraint. However, current cruelty to animals statues make it illegal to transport or confine an animal in a cruel manner.
Vermont

Ambiguous

There is no law in Vermont which requires dog car restraint. However, current cruelty to animals statues make it illegal to transport or confine an animal in a cruel manner. Yes
Virginia

Ambiguous

There is no law in Virginia which requires dog car restraint. However, Virginia’s dog laws require that owners provide adequate care for companion animals during transportation. Additionally, the Virginia DMV website list unrestrained pets as a distraction and recommends all pets be secured while driving. Yes
Washington

Ambiguous

There is no law in Washington which requires dog car restraint. However, current cruelty to animals statues make it illegal to transport or confine an animal in a cruel manner. Additionally, a distracted driving law went into effect in July 2017. Unrestrained pets aren’t specifically listed as a violation, but lawmakers and police officers have highlighted unrestrained dogs riding on the driver’s lap as a potential distraction. Yes
West Virginia

No

There is no specific law in West Virginia that requires restraint of a dog within a vehicle. Yes
Wisconsin

Ambiguous

There is no law in Wisconsin which requires dog car restraint. However, current cruelty to animals statues make it illegal to transport or confine an animal in a cruel manner. Yes
Wyoming

No

There is no specific law in Wyoming that requires restraint of a dog within a vehicle.




What are the dogs in cars law for Canada?

Similarly to the US, The dogs in cars laws vary between provinces.

Most provinces in Canada ban unrestrained dogs being transported in the exterior of trucks, to prevent them from falling out and hurting themselves. If traveling in the exterior compartment of a truck, dogs must be restrained with use of a dog crate, that may need to comply with specific rules. Nova Scotia requires that containers used to transport an animal in a motor vehicle outside the passenger compartment must meet all of the following requirements:

  • it must be constructed to prevent an animal from escaping;
  • it must be constructed to allow the animal to have good footing, protection from inclement weather and adequate ventilation;
  • it must be durable and kept in good repair;
  • it must be large enough to enable the animal to turn around normally, to stand and sit erect and to lie in a natural position;
  • it must be secured to the motor vehicle.

Additionally, most areas ban dogs being transported in the trunk of a vehicle.

The laws on dog car restraint in the interior of a vehicle is ambiguous in many places. Although not all provinces ban dogs traveling without a crate, dog seat belt or dog car harness, there are laws banning driving ‘without due care and attention’. Therefore, owners can be fined and can even have their licenses revoked, if an unrestrained dog is disruptive. New Brunswick and Ontario are currently the only two provinces with dog car restraint laws within the passenger compartment of a vehicle. Here, dogs must be restrained properly with use of a dog crate or dog seatbelt harness.

Furthermore, throughout Canada, there are particular restrictions on leaving a dog in an unattended motor vehicle under conditions that could endanger health or well-being. This includes vehicles that are too hot, too cold, haven’t got adequate ventilation or a water supply. Owners will be fined for animal cruelty.

Please see the table below for details on the laws for dogs in cars in Canada.

PROVINCE DOG CAR RESTRAINT: LAWS IN PLACE LAWS PROTECTING DOGS LEFT IN CARS
Alberta Ambiguous Drivers can be fined for distracted driving if they are travelling with an unrestrained pet in the vehicle. Fines are levied at the discretion of the police officer, but they will generally be given if an unrestrained dog is occupying the driver’s seat or the front passenger seat. Yes
British Columbia Ambiguous Section 72 of the BC Motor Vehicle Act prohibits traveling with an unsecured dog in the exterior of a truck. BC SPCA recommends that if owners must transport their dogs in the back of a truck, they should use a secured crate in the centre of their truck boxes (source: here).

Drivers can be fined $368 for driving ‘without due care and attention’ if an unrestrained pet is distracting. Additionally, the fine comes with six penalty points, resulting in a $360 Driver Penalty Point Premium.

Yes
Manitoba Ambiguous In Manitoba, it is against the law to travel with an unrestrained dog in the back of an open pickup truck. There are no specific laws in place that require dog car restraint in other vehicles. However, The Highway Traffic Act makes it an offence to drive with obstructed or limited view or control. Yes
New Brunswick Yes All dog (and other animal) passengers must wear a dog seat belt or be confined to a carrier, crate or cage while a vehicle is in motion. Violations can result in a $172.50 fine for the first offence, $550 for the second and a third can cost up to $1,100. Drivers will also face a 60-day licence suspension for the third offence. Yes
Newfoundland and Labrador Ambiguous When traveling outside the passenger compartment of a vehicle, dogs must be confined or secured. Dog owners can use a harness, or another fastening, in a manner which is adequate to prevent the animal from falling off the vehicle or injuring itself (source: here). Yes
Nova Scotia Ambiguous When traveling outside the passenger compartment of a vehicle, dogs must be confined or secured. Dogs must be confined within a container that is secure, and allows adequate movement and ventilation.

Additionally, dogs mustn’t be transported in the trunk of a motor vehicle (source: here).

Yes
Ontario Yes All dogs must be restrained if they are traveling in the back of a truck. They must be transported within a crate that is secured to the vehicle. As outlined by the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, it is an offense to drive with a dog loose in the back of a truck. Animals must be secured to the vehicle within a crate.

Additionally, it is an offence to drive with a dog on your lap. All animals must be transported in the back seat, secured with either a dog car crate or dog seatbelt harness.

Yes
Prince Edward Island Ambigious It is against the law to travel with unrestrained dogs in the back of a pickup truck. Dogs must be transported to a crate secured to the vehicle. Yes


What are the dogs in cars law for Australia?

Throughout Australia the laws surrounding dog car restraint when travelling in or on the back of a vehicle vary from state to state.

All over Australia, legislation stipulates that a driver must not drive with an animal on their lap as it prevents them from having proper control of the vehicle. Drivers can face huge fines and demerit points if they are caught with a dog in their lap. In New South Wales drivers can be fined up to $2,200 and 3 demerit points.

In some states, the law also requires that dogs are seated or crated in the appropriate area of the vehicle. This is the case in New South Wales and Queensland, where there are specific legislations that require all dogs to be restrained within a vehicle. Here, dogs must be restrained with the use of a dog crate or dog seatbelt harness. In New South Wales, Under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, if a dog is injured because it was not restrained in a motor vehicle the owner can face up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $5,500. In other states, the laws are somewhat ambitious, stating dogs must be restrained only to prevent them from falling out of the vehicle.

Furthermore, drivers will also face huge fines, demerit points and even a jail sentence if they transport an unrestrained dog in the back of a ute. Drivers must ensure the dog is restrained with use of a secured crate or tether. Failure to do so is considered animal cruelty as unrestrained dogs risk falling off or out of a vehicle.

Additionally, in some states it is illegal for a driver, motorcycle rider, bicycle rider or passenger must not lead an animal, including by tethering, while the vehicle is moving.

Please see the table below for details on the laws for dogs in cars in Australia.

STATES DOG CAR RESTRAINT: LAWS IN PLACE
New South Wales Yes NSW road rules require dogs to be restrained in an appropriate area of a vehicle, within a crate or with use of a dog car harness or dog seatbelt. Legislation stipulates that a driver must not drive with an animal on their lap or preventing them from having proper control imposes a maximum penalty $2200 & 3 demerit points. Under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act if an animal is injured because it was not restrained in a motor vehicle the owner can face up to 6 months in jail and or a maximum fine of $5,500.00.

A driver, motor cycle rider, bike rider or a passenger mustn’t lead a dog on a leash while moving. Furthermore, a motor bike rider must not ride with any animal between the handlebars and the rider.

Dogs can travel on the open back of a moving vehicle on a public street as long as the dog is restrained or enclosed securely.

Queensland Yes The Queensland Road Rules requires drivers to have full control of a vehicle. If an unrestrained dog distracts the driver, they may face a fine of $284. There is also a specific offence for driving with a dog on the driver’s lap.

The Department of Transport and Main Roads recognises a dog as a ‘load’, and must therefore be restrained in a vehicle properly. The Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 also requires dog car restraint methods to be used. Violation of this rule can result in court proceedings in extreme cases.

South Australia Ambiguous Drivers must not drive with an animal on their lap and the driver must have a clear unobstructed view of the road, and traffic, ahead, behind and to each side of the driver. Violations can result in10 penalty units and a fine of up to $1540.

The Dog Control Act 2000 requires dogs in or on a vehicle to be restrained sufficiently to prevent the dog from leaving the vehicle.

Tasmania Ambiguous By law, a driver must also not drive with a dog on their lap and must have a clear unobstructed view of the road, and traffic, ahead, behind and to each side. Drivers can face 20 penalty units or even 6 months imprisonment.

The Animal Welfare Act prohibits a person from transporting a dog in or on a vehicle unless the dog is restrained to prevent it from falling from the vehicle.

Victoria Ambiguous It is illegal for a driver to have a dog on their lap. Violation of this law can result in 5 penalty units and a maximum fine of $635, no demerit points.

Additionally, dogs must never be placed in the enclosed boot of a vehicle 5 penalty units. Violation can result in a fine of up to $635.

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act states that drivers must not drive a vehicle with an unsecured dog in the back of an open trailer. Violations can result in a fine of up to $1270.

Western Australia Ambiguous The Road Traffic Code states that a driver must not carry a dog on his lap. Violation can result in a $100 fine and 1 demerit point.

Dogs traveling in the back of a utility must be restrained to ensure that it does not fall out. Drivers can face a $150 fine if they fail to comply.




What are the dogs in cars law for New Zealand (NZ)?

There are no laws requiring people to restrain dogs in the passenger section of a car. However, the Road Code does stipulate that “holding a package, person or animal in your lap or arms when driving is dangerous”. Police and the SPCA urge people to restrain dogs in cars while driving to prevent harm to both the animal, the driver, other passengers and others on the road.

When it comes to dogs traveling in the open section of a vehicle, New Zealand has some more specific restrictions. The Animal Welfare (Care and Procedures) Regulations 2018 bans unrestrained dogs being transported in open deck or open trailer of a moving vehicle, to protect them from harm. This doesn’t refer to dogs traveling on a moped, a motorcycle, or an all-terrain vehicle. Dogs traveling in the open compartment must be restrained in a way that prevents them from falling off or hanging off the vehicle. Failure to comply with this regulation can result in a fine of up to $900. Drivers can use dog crates, or a tether that complies with the following rules:

  • It must be short enough to prevent the dog’s legs from reaching over the sides of the open deck of the vehicle or open trailer;
  • It must be long enough to allow the dog to stand or lie down in a natural position.

This legislation does not apply when farm dogs are unsecured on the open deck or open trailer of a moving motor vehicle on a public road while involved in driving or managing livestock.

Furthermore, dog owners can be fined if they leave their dogs in their vehicles during hot weather. Regulations mean police officers and SPCA officers have the right to hand out infringement notices and fines of $300 to people who leave dogs in a hot car.

Bystanders worried about dogs trapped in hot cars should call the police or SPCA to get action taken.


Why is it important to follow laws for dogs in cars?

1. Laws for dogs in cars have been put in place for safety.

Although laws on restricting dogs in cars are not in place all over the world, restraining your dog is highly recommended in the interest of safety. Unrestrained dogs in cars are a hazard. Dog crates, dog seat belts and dog car harnesses will not only protect your dog, they will also protect you, other passengers and other drivers on the road.

Driving with your dog on your lap, on the seat next to you, or even unrestrained in your back seat can be as distracting as texting. It just takes one second of distraction to cause a road accident. Dog car restraint methods will prevent your dog from climbing on your lap, jumping around or poking his head out the window – behaviours that are all likely to get you in trouble with the law. When taking a dog in a car, there are many risk factors, including:

  • Airbags deployed in the event of an accident – this can harm a dog sitting in the front seat.
  • Dogs who pop their heads out the window can be injured by external debris.
  • Excited or nervous dogs can leap out of windows.
  • Dogs roaming freely in the backseat during a collision can be launched into the front window.

So, even if it isn’t a legal requirement in your country, state, province or territory, you should always use some form of restraint.

Laws regarding leaving a dog in an unattended vehicle are in place for your dog’s well-being. Many dog owners are unaware of the huge potential danger for leaving dogs in vehicles. As mentioned above, parked cars are deathtraps for dogs, particularly on a hot day. They can sustain brain damage or even die from heatstroke in just 15 minutes.


2. You can face large fines if caught breaking the laws for dogs in cars.

Depending on the laws where you live, you can face a large fine if you are caught with an unrestrained dog in your car.

Some countries have specific laws for dogs in cars requiring restraint. In the UK drivers can face fines of up to £2,500 and 9 points on their license. In extreme cases, an accident can lead to a driving ban or even jail time. For example, drivers who violate animal transport laws in New Jersey can face six months in jail.

Even in places without specific laws on dog car restraint, drivers still risk being fined. Many states in the US do not have laws on restraining dogs in cars, however, drivers can be fined for ‘distracted driving’. Therefore, you can be fined if a law enforcement officer feels that an unrestrained dog prevents you from having full control of a vehicle.

Penalties for leaving an animal unattended in a motor vehicle in dangerous conditions vary between countries, states and provinces. In the US fines can range from a couple hundred dollars to thousands of dollars!


3. Accidents may not be covered by your insurance.

In certain countries, being caught with an unrestrained dog can have an expensive consequence when it comes to insurance.

If a road accident is caused by an unrestrained dog in the UK, the driver’s insurance may be invalidated. This can even sometimes be the case if your dog isn’t the cause of the accident, but hasn’t been restrained properly. In these cases, the driver would be personally responsible for paying for any repairs in the event of a claim.


4. Your insurance can go up if you are caught breaking the laws for dogs in cars.

Additionally, after an accident, dog owners should expect a jump in their future insurance payments. Car insurance companies urge drivers to use dog seat belts, harnesses and dog crates when transporting their dogs.

If you are in any doubt about the insurance implications of having a dog roam freely in your vehicle, talk to your provider. They will be able to advise you on how to properly restrain your dog so that it will be covered under your insurance.




Are dog seat belt harnesses required by law?

This depends on where you are located. Different countries, states and provinces each have different laws for dogs in cars.

While some areas do not have any specific laws on dog car restraint, others do. For example, all countries in the UK require dogs to be restrained within a moving vehicle. The law doesn’t require use of a dog seat belt harness specifically, however it is listed as one of the recommended methods of restraint.

In some places, the law can be rather ambiguous. For example, Tasmania in Australia just requires dogs being prevented from being able to jump out of the vehicle. However, this doesn’t specifically require the use of a dog seat belt harness, or other methods of restraint. To complicate things further, many places haven’t got specific laws for dogs in cars, but drivers can be fined for ‘distracted driving’ if an unrestrained dog is disruptive in a vehicle.

Thus, a seat belt harness isn’t necessary required by law, but it is recommended to prevent being charged with ‘distracted driving’, or ‘driving without due care and attention’. Law aside, it is also important to keep your dog, yourself and other drivers on the road safe. A dog car harness will prevent an excited dog from jumping out a window (there have been a number of cases), obstructing your view or jumping on your lap.

For more information on dog harnesses, check out Dog Car Harness: Keeping Dogs in Cars Safe [2019 Guide].


Are dog crates for cars required by law?

This depends on where you are located and where in the vehicle your dog is traveling in. Different countries, states and provinces each have different laws for dog crates for cars.

While some areas do not have any specific dog car restraint laws, others specifically require restraint methods, including the use of dog crates. Dog crates, in some areas, are a legal requirement when dogs are traveling in the open section of a vehicle, such as the bed of a truck. Many countries, including the whole of the UK, require the use of a dog crate that is securely attached to the back of the vehicle, to prevent the dog from falling out. Other countries do not require a crate specifically, but recommend the use of one or a tether.

When it comes to dogs being transported within the passenger compartment of a vehicle, use of a dog crates aren’t technically a legal requirement. This is because owners also have the option of using a dog seat belt, dog car harness or guard. However, a dog crate is recommended for some dogs, as long as there is sufficient space for movement, as well as adequate ventilation.


Are laws relating to dogs in cars actually enforced?

Driving with an unrestrained dog in your vehicle can be very dangerous. An unrestrained dog can be a huge distraction, which can increase the risk of a road accident. With that said, many owners admit to driving without using any dog car restraint methods. In the UK, around 35% of owners admit they drive with unrestrained dogs. According to a study by Confused.com, 11% of owners let their pet sit up front and 9% allow their dogs loose on the backseat. Only 37% put their dogs in car crates or carriers while driving and only 17% used a specialist dog seat belt or dog car harness (source: here). This is a real concern as unrestrained dogs risk getting seriously hurt or even killed in the even of an accident.

But what are the chances that you will get caught and fined for driving with an unrestrained dog?

This depends on where you live, and how well behaved your dog is. Road rules and laws for dogs in cars vary widely between countries, states, territories and provinces. For example, New Jersey have strict rules, banning driving with an unrestrained dog in any vehicle. Here, drivers who violate animal transport laws can face fines ranging between $250 and $1,000. In extreme cases, they can even face six months in jail. On the other hand, in New York, there are no laws for dogs in cars. However, it’s important to remember that drivers can still get in trouble if unrestrained dogs cause ‘distracted driving’, which is an offense all over the US.

Safety aside, if your dog is well behaved and calm in the car, it is less likely that you will get in trouble with the law. In many areas, drivers will only get in trouble with the law if their dog is being distracting. This is because in some places there aren’t specific laws on driving with unrestricted dogs, but rather, drivers can get in trouble for ‘distracted driving’. Therefore, if a dog climbs on their owners lap or is jumping around the vehicle, it is likely that you will be fined. On the other hand, if your dog is calmly sitting in the back seat, they are less likely to draw a law officers’ attention.


What is the law for dogs sitting in the front seat of a car?

Dogs sitting in the front seat of a car without a dog seat belt harness or crate is dangerous. Not only are unrestrained dogs distracting for drivers, increasing the chances of an accident, it also puts your dog’s safety at risk. PetMD shared an article explaining how an 80-pound dog, such as a Labrador Retriever, becomes a 2,400 pound projectile in a car accident occurring at only 50mph (source: here). If you have to perform an emergency stop your dog could risk getting seriously hurt.

But what is the law for dogs in the front seat?

The law varies depending on your location. Many countries, states and provinces do not have specific laws on dogs sitting in the front seat. However, that doesn’t mean that there is no risk of getting charged or fined. Many law enforcement officers may consider an unrestrained dog to be distracting enough to charge a driver for distracted driving offences. Particularly if a dog is sat in the front seat, or worse – on your lap.

In many places, it is legal for your dog to sit in the front seat, as long as he is properly restrained. Dog seat belts are one way to restrain a dog. They clip into the car like a normal car seat belt. However, some of them can cause dogs to fly off the seat, as was discovered in a study conducted by conducted by the Center for Pet Safety (source: here). Therefore, if your dog must drive in the front seat, make sure you use a high-quality safety harness that has thick, padded straps to distribute the impact force as widely as possible. Thick straps will also be more comfortable for your dog. You also have the option of using a dog crate or carrier, that has been properly secured down to the seat. Some good options are listed in the next section.




What are the best things that I can buy to prevent us getting in legal trouble?

1. Dog car harness / dog seatbelt harness

A dog car harness is designed to restrain dogs in an upright or sitting position in the back seat of a vehicle. Most harnesses work with use of a car’s existing seatbelt strap for extra security and protection. Dog car harnesses look like standard dog harnesses, but they have extra components that allow you to attach them to the car seat belt. Additionally, quality dog car harnesses are usually stronger and more robust than standard harnesses. This is because they need to withstand potential high forces in the event of an accident.

Normally harnesses fit over the dog’s head, attaching around the chest and upper torso. The car’s existing seat belt then slips through the dog’s harness to secure your dog to the vehicle. Combining your human seatbelt with a well-designed dog harness will provide ultimate dog safety in your car. Although your dog may not appreciate it, a good dog car harness will restrict movement of your dog. This is to ensure that they are not a distraction to the driver, and to protect them during an accident. Some allow dogs to sit up right where others will hold your dog in an upright position.

Best rated dog car harness

dog car harness sleepy pod clickit sport

The Sleepypod Clickit Sport is a popular option among dog owners, being one of the only dog car harnesses approved by the Center for Pet Safety (CPS). They conducted tests based on FMVSS 213 standard, which is the procedure currently used to certify child safety seats. The Clickit Sport was one of three harnesses that passed, so you can be confident that your dog would be safe in the event of an accident.

How it works for the car: it is a typical step-through harness that latches in two places. You then simply slide your cars existing seatbelt through the straps, securing the seatbelt to the entire harness.

What dog owners love: firstly, owners love that it has been crash tested to the same standards of child safety seats. You can therefore feel confident that your dog would be protected in the event of an accident. As the seatbelt is fed through the entire dog car harness, the force will be distributed evenly rather than on one point, protecting your dog from injury. The Clickit Sport is also praised for the heavily padded chest area and for the adjustable straps which comfortably fits dogs of different shapes and sizes. The harness can also double up as a standard walking harness, although a few dog owners feel it works better as a car harness.


2. Dog seat belt

A dog seat belt functions largely in the same way as standard seat belts for humans. They usually plug directly into the receiver/buckle in a vehicle at one end and clipping onto a harness or collar at the other. A dog seat belt is quick and easy to use.

Dog seat belts can normally be adjusted to an extent to suit dogs of varying sizes. The leads for dog seat belts should generally be long enough to allow a dog to remain upright during a car ride, but not so long as to allow them to tumble around the back seat.

Best rated dog seat belt

dog seat belt slowton

The SlowTon Dog Car Harness Seatbelt is a popular choice for dog seat belts. It has received an abundance of positive reviews from happy owners who feel confident that their dog is protected in their cars. The Slowton has been praised for being a cheap option on the market, that still works effectively and comfortably.

How it works in the car: The Slowton dog seat belt harness is a standard step-through harness, with a strap and buckle that simply snaps straight into the car’s existing seatbelt system.

What dog owners love: this dog seat belt has been praised for being well-made, sturdy and comfortable. It has been highly rated by owners of small, large, slim and chunky dog breeds for being a good fit. The seat belt harness comes in 6 different sizes, which are each adjustable to suit all breeds. Dog owners also recommend this seat belt harness for everyday use. Just be sure to measure your dog properly before purchasing the harness, to ensure you get the perfect fit.


3. Dog crate for cars 

Travel crates are also another safe way to travel with dogs in cars, and is a legal requirement in some areas. Traveling in a crate, your dog is safer for a number of reasons. Firstly, a dog is less likely to be thrown around the car during an accident or if the driver needs to make an emergency stop. Furthermore, a dog in a crate will be less of a distraction to a driver. It’s also possible that being in a crate may also reduce motion sickness in dogs.

For complete safety, crates must be secured to your vehicle and be big enough for a pet to stand up, lie down and turn around as per RSPCA guidelines.

Best rated dog crate for cars

The AmazonBasics Premium Folding Portable Soft Pet Crate stands out as one of the best soft dog crates, with an abundance of positive amazon reviews. The dog crate is sturdy and durable despite being a soft dog crate. The solid frame and soft interior will certainly keep your dog safe from bumps in the road. When you’re not on the road, the carrier can be folded down, which makes it very portable.

Even owners with nervous dogs found that their dogs felt very relaxed in this Amazon dog carrier. Along the sides are multiple mesh windows which lets dogs see their surroundings – this can help a great deal with any anxiety. It also comes with a soft plush base, to ensure your dog is comfortable whilst on the road.

No matter what breed of dog you have, this dog car crate should provide your dog with sufficient space as it comes in 5 sizes! Just make sure you measure your dog before purchasing, to ensure he has enough room to sit up, lie down and move around.

Overall, this is the best soft dog crate money can buy which isn’t a great deal as the price point is very generous.

If your dog is nervous when traveling, check out CBD Oil for Dogs Traveling: Benefits, Dosage & Guidance.




 

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