“Fantasy car, top down..Let’s take a ride you can’t forget. Come on pretty pup, ride with me”. Lyrics from the Beach Boys, ‘In My Car’. A song mimicking a common real life scene on our roads as proud motorists steer down tarmacs riding with their handsome Dobermans, friendly Golden Retrievers, menacing Boxers, or adorable straggly Scottish Terriers in tow.

They intrigue children and bring out smiles from most of us on the roads. With one paw perched on the window ledge and a panting tongue hanging out, they are an amusing sight as kids giggle to watch these hairy passengers with their straggly fur billowing in the beating wind. As adorable a sight these canines may be, they hide the darker side of road safety and animal welfare. Drivers travelling with pets often neglect to consider their pets’ safety and in doing so, endanger the animals, themselves and other road motorists.

The next time you take your pooch on a car ride, it may not be such a great idea to allow Spud to stick his head out the window or climb onto your lap. Not unless you’re okay with Spud turning into an unguided projectile missile if you do a sudden hard brake or worse, be involved in a collision. Tests show an unrestrained pet sitting on the back seat of a car can hit the dashboard with enough force to cause permanent injury, even at a collision speed of less than 20km/hr (RACQ).

Cute dog with head sticking out of window

Keep me safe!

The Do’s and Dont’s of Pet Restraints

The RSPCA warns that the use of internal cargo barriers (the type commonly used in station wagons and SUVs) as a restraining method is not foolproof enough but it is better than nothing at all. While this method may not fully protect the animal in a collision, it at least prevents the animal from becoming a projectile capable of injuring other passengers.

The dangers of not properly restraining pets inside cars is potentially more distracting to a driver than fussy babies bawling in the back seat. For one thing, you know your baby is safely tucked in the capsule.

Yet alarmingly, surveys of drivers who regularly transport pets inside their cars reveal that most fail to restrain them and are unaware that in most states, some sort of system to protect the animal is a legal requirement. Drivers caught driving with unrestrained dogs risk fines, demerit points and listen carefully: They ‘do not pass, do not collect $200 (instead face hefty fines more than $200), and may ‘go to jail’.

The ongoing toll of animals fatally injured or killed falling off vehicles has prompted even an RACQ awareness campaign to warn drivers of the dangers of unrestrained pets in vehicles.

I do wonder why the laws are a little ‘wishy-washy’ though legislation in most states and territories do specifically prohibit people from transporting dogs unrestrained on the back of utes, other open vehicles or trailers. In those states in which it is not specifically prohibited (i.e. Qld and WA), it is still an offence to transport an animal in a way that is likely to cause the animal harm.

RSPCA Australia advises people to ensure their dog’s restraint is long enough to allow him to stand and lie down, but not long enough for it to jump or fall over the edge of a moving vehicle. Do use swivels to attach the pet restraint to both the vehicle and the dog’s collar to prevent the chain from tangling.

Are you a dinky di Aussie who loves the tradition of a few untethered dogs on the back of your bea-ute? Take note that times have changed. You may risk on-the-spot fines of $500 or more under different Acts in different states. Ute owners should also take more precaution than ever not to drive with pets in the tray if they are going to be exposed to harsh weather conditions. Ute trays do turn very hot in the sun and can burn your pet’s footpads.

As a general rule, one should never leave pets unattended in utes or any other vehicle. Dogs must be thought of like kids, who can die very quickly from heat stress, even in mild weather. Instead, consider purchasing a safety-belt restraint so that you can drive with your dog in the cabin of your ute where he is safer, especially in the case of an accident. Before applying for car finance with 360 Finance, spare a thought for your furry friends as this will help guide your decision toward the right type of vehicle for your family, including your pets.

Vehicle restraints for dogs are widely available and 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. Specialty pet stores sell harnesses in sizes XS to XL, ranging in prices from $15 to $50. Pet restraints that buckle the harnesses to car seats retail at around $15.50 and up.

Some animal welfare groups advocate the use of pet transport containers or crates (appropriately secured within the car). Transport containers should enable the animal to lie down comfortably in a natural position, stand and sit erect, turn around and stretch with clearance.

While it is nice to include Spud in your travels, it is wise to have a thought not just for his welfare and safety, but also that of you and your passengers. It is equally as wise to check the legal requirements applicable in your state, and the states in which you plan to travel.

My other advice? Think of Spud as your own son, and of course you do. A a mum, I pack plenty of fresh water for the kids in case I can’t find any taps, and so should you for your pooch. And plenty of snacks for your him or her, for a longer journey. Again, like my kids will need— make frequent stops for plenty of toilet breaks during your road trip to avoid toilet accidents in the car and time for a little stretch or exercise outside of the vehicle in the case of long journeys.

Like my son when he was a toddler, even the most well-trained pet can become exuberant and unpredictable in a new, exciting environment. Look after him well and stay safe, like the great advice from the Beach Boys as they sang,“Come for a drive, and we’ll arrive, feelin’ alive”…

As for your vehicle financing, you know we’ll take care of you at 360 Finance. With such competitive rates and well-covered options, you can be certain we’ll look after you and you’ll always be safe on your journey with us.