It is not uncommon to see working dogs on the back of utes and in or under stock crates during summer, but dog owners need to take extra care in the coming weeks to avoid exposing them to heat stress, Agriculture Victoria district veterinary office Dr Jeff Cave says.
While it is legal to allow appropriately-restrained dogs to travel on the back of utes, dogs being left in the sun for long periods can quickly dehydrate or even die from heat stress.
Adequate shelter, for example a fixed canopy, needs to be provided to protect tethered dogs from extreme temperatures.
A lot of utes and tray backs these days are made of metal and will heat up quickly and could easily burn dogs' paws.
New regulations introduced in Victoria in December 2019 require that when the temperature is 28 degrees or above that an area of insulating material be placed on the metal tray to protect the dog from the metal surface.
Dr Cave said owners must ensure dogs kept in cages have adequate ventilation, particularly when the vehicle is not moving, and ensure all dogs are given regular access to cool water.
Victoria's Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act requires dogs travelling in the back of utes, trailers or open tray trucks to be tethered or caged in a manner that prevents them from falling from the vehicle.
The only exemption is when dogs are actively working livestock.
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The tether should only be long enough to permit the dog to stand, lie down and move about but not so long that it could potentially let the dog fall off the vehicle and be dragged or strangled.
Tethering dogs should always be regarded as a temporary, short-term method of restraint.
In addition, it is an offence to leave an animal unattended inside a motor vehicle when the outside temperature is 28 degrees or above, so be sure to make appropriate arrangements when you are travelling with animals.
For further advice please contact the RSPCA, your local veterinarian or Agriculture Victoria veterinary or animal health officer, or in NSW your Local Land Services.