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Transporting animals safely is a requirement in British Columbia

How to transport your pet safely – and without getting a ticket

It’s easy to see how having an animal running around inside a car could be a hazard. In the event of an accident, a pet also becomes a flying object that can cause injury to themselves and others. Of course, it’s not just the safety of drivers, passengers and other road users at stake. An animal without restraints could be seriously hurt or killed in an accident in the same way as a human would if they don’t wear a seatbelt. The importance of protecting animals while they are being transported is reflected in the law.

Is it OK to transport a dog in the back of my pick-up?

It is an offence to transport an animal in any exterior part of a vehicle unless there is something to protect it from being thrown.

Section 72 of the BC Motor Vehicle Act states the following about transporting animals:

A person commits an offence if the person transports a living animal on the running board, fender, hood or other exterior part of a motor vehicle unless a suitable cage, carrier or guard rail is provided and is attached adequately to protect that animal from falling or being thrown from the vehicle.

If you want to transport your dog in the back of your pick-up, make sure you have a cage, animal carrier or rail attached to the back of the truck. The BCSPCA advises people to call 911 if they see a dog in the back of a pick-up so be wary of being reported. It advises to either put the dog inside the vehicle using a dog seatbelt or in a crate or if it’s in the back of a truck, in a secured crate in the centre of the truck.

Driving without due care and attention

There is no specific law against driving with a pet loose in your vehicle, however, it is your responsibility to give the road your full attention. If an animal is inside your vehicle where it could cause you to become inattentive to your driving, even momentarily, then this is enough to establish the offence of driving without due care and attention. If you have an unsecured pet in your car, you are accepting the risk that you could potentially be found guilty of driving without due care and attention. Section 144 of the Motor Vehicle Act prohibits careless driving, which includes driving without due care and attention.

In this case, a man was driving with his dog sitting on the passenger seat of his pick-up truck. The judge acknowledged that while he would have been required to have his dog secured had it been in the back part of the pick-up, he was not required to secure the dog while it was in the front compartment.

The pick-up driver was involved in a head-on collision with another vehicle in which the other driver was killed and several other people were injured. The pick-up driver testified that his dog jumped across him to chase a stink bug, obscuring his view, before the collision.

The judge found that by having the dog in his vehicle, the driver assumed a risk for any inattention resulting from the presence of the dog.

The judge said: “If the inattention is to deal with the actions of the dog as they interfere with the driver’s operation of the vehicle or the inattention by taking one’s eyes off the road to observe the dog and perhaps pet the dog sitting on the seat beside the driver, those acts may constitute the offence of driving without due care and attention.”

The judge found the driver was therefore guilty of the offence.

Can I get a ticket for having an unsecured pet in my vehicle?

Courts have ruled that even inadvertently taking your attention from the road is enough to convict someone under this section. If a police officer believes an animal, unsecured or not, is distracting you from the road, technically, you could be charged with driving without due care and attention. The minimum fine for a traffic violation under Section 144 is $100. However, most tickets issued by police will be around $368. The maximum fine is defined by the Offence Act and is $2,000. A police officer may decide to give you a fine if he believes the animal caused a distraction. While you might think of a cell phone when it comes to distracted driving, in fact, having an unsecured pet that diverts your full attention from the road could constitute an offence.

What can you do?

Pets may be a cause for distraction. They may be moving around too much or be too loud. If you want to avoid the safety risk and potential legal consequences, it is important to make sure that your pets are secure. Keep them secure with an animal security belt or in a crate or cage. If you are driving with a passenger, they can help you keep the pet from becoming a distraction – but this is not full-proof.

If it is too late and you have received a ticket resulting from having a pet in your vehicle, do not give up hope. If you can argue you took steps to secure the animal, you might have a shot. Your best bet is to hire a lawyer. At BC Driving Lawyers, we are dedicated to defending people’s traffic tickets and we know how to make arguments that succeed. Call us today on 604-608-1200.