How driving with your pet could cost you more than $100

If you want to show off your new furry friend to the world, it can be tempting to hop into your car and take them for a spin - but there's a few things you need to watch out for.

You will need to be careful about where your dog is in the vehicle as driving with your pet on your lap could end up costing you hundreds with laws across Australia making it an offence.

Whilst it may seem innocuous and harmless to some, driving with an animal on your lap can pose serious risks to both yourself and other motorists. But exactly how costly could it be?

Dogs resting on their owners in cars. Source: Getty Images
It is illegal to drive with a dog on your lap in all Australian states and territories. Source: Getty Images

A dangerous distraction

No matter where you go in Australia, driving with an animal on your lap is an offence and several laws forbid it.

While there are laws specifically targeting leading animals and not securing them properly in a vehicle, driving with them on your lap falls under a completely different rule: driving whilst distracted.

Most of the state bodies have adopted the laws from a subsection of Rule 297 in the Australian Road Rules page which clearly states in part 2: "A driver must not drive if a person or an animal is in the driver’s lap".

This sub-ruling gives authorities the right to penalise drivers for not having proper control of their vehicle classing it in the same category as anyone who is driving a vehicle with an obscured vision of the road or any similar situation.

Woman and dog sit in open boot. Source: Getty Images
Dog owners are encouraged to makes sure their pets are travelling safely in their vehicles. Source: Getty Images

It’s a law that is applied strictly to both car drivers and motorbike riders across the country.

However, a bizarre ruling allows some motorbike riders to get away with it if they can prove that the animal is helping with a farming task and is travelling no further than 500 metres.

Driving with your dog could be a costly error

Reckless driving offences are always punished strictly and adding an animal into the mix only heightens the punishments that some states can dish out to offending motorists.

Some states do take a harsher approach than others with both substantial fines and penalties of several demerit points in some of the stricter states. The penalties for getting caught driving with an animal on your lap include:

NSW: In Australia's most populous state there is potential to be hit with a double whammy of penalties if you aren’t careful. Anyone caught driving with an animal on your lap is subject to a hefty $425 fine as well as three demerit points. The penalties are beefed up should you be caught in a school zone with the punishments increased to a $561 fine and 4 demerit points.

VIC: Victoria issues the same penalty for anyone found not to be in proper control of their vehicle. The authorities won’t issue any demerit points but they will slap you with an instant fine of $278.

A woman takes a selfie with a dog in a car. Source: Getty Images
Most of Australia's states and territories have very strict rules for anyone caught driving with their dog in their lap. Source: Getty Images

QLD: In the Sunshine State authorities don’t take too kindly to anyone driving with animals on their lap. It’s an immediate $284 fine for anyone caught in the act although no demerit points will be issued.

SA: As with most driving offences in South Australia, you are likely to get hit with two penalties. Being caught with an animal on your lap is a $244 fine but also comes with an additional $92 penalty levy. This brings the total fine to $326 although no demerit points will be issued.

WA: WA will punish drivers in two different ways should they be caught with an animal on their lap. It’s a $100 fine and also 1 demerit point added to their licence.

TAS: In Tasmania, anyone caught driving with animals on their laps will find themselves getting a fine of $183 but no demerit points added to their licence.

NT: Like many other driving offences in the Northern Territory, driving with an animal on your lap could is classed as a “general offence”. This means that you could be slapped with a maximum fine of 20 penalty units (a current total of $3,140) although the minimum penalty is just $157.

ACT: The Australian Capital Territory imposes an immediate fine of $205 for anyone caught driving with an animal on their lap, but the fine could jump to $3,200 if it is challenged in court.

Seeing as there are some hefty penalties for the offence, it might make you think twice about driving with your furry friend on your lap when you hit the road.

Keeping your pets safe on the road

As always, there is no substitute for keeping your pets safely secured when travelling on the road.

Not only are there hefty penalties for anyone breaking the rules, it unnecessary puts both you and your pet at risk.

Therefore, always look to invest in safe modes of transportation for your animals in the car which could include:

  • Carrier cages for cats or other small animals,

  • Invest in safe caged areas in the boot for larger animals,

  • Consider mounted leads or harnesses if they want to travel in a seated area.

By following these safety tips, you won’t have any need to drive with a pet in your lap and you can get to your destination knowing that both you and your pet are safe at all times within your vehicle.

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