Thursday, 9 July 2009

Safe Car Travel for Dogs

At the front of my mind, at all times, is the safety and security of the dogs that I walk.

Safety while travelling is very important; as I walk dogs in small groups, sometimes my first pick up can be in the van for around half an hour before we get to our destination, again on the way back and the local country parks where I walk are nearly all on 60mph roads. I don't travel this fast, but other drivers do. The dogs need to be transported securely, so they can't distract me, or injure each other.

Millie & Max in the back crates, Beauty & Fred behind them.

In an accident, a loose dog can turn into a missile. If its lucky enough not to go through the windscreen, it could be thrown around inside, most likely breaking bones. If a medium (or larger) dog hits the driver from behind, it can push the driver into the windscreen – some dogs can weigh as much as a small adult – one of the dogs I walk is at least as heavy as I am, if not heavier.

Even in the event of a small collision, doors can be thrown open, or passers-by may open a door to check the driver is okay and the dogs escape – straight into traffic, or out of sight and lost. All dogs I carry are taught an open door is not an invitation to go through it, and they cannot get through into the front of the van.

Fred waiting patiently for his release cue.

Should someone 'helpfully' open a door and try to get the dogs out, if they aredistressed by an accident they may not be able to remember their training and bolt. Or, in their distress or possibly pain, they may bite their rescuer. Crates are essential, to keep the 'helpful' at bay if nothing else!

A lead fixed to a fixture of the car, or to the seatbelt is not secure. The clips are not made to withstand the forces generated by flying dogs and may come undone, or allow the dog to be strangled, or even have its neck broken. Dog car harnesses are an alternative, but most are not 'crash-tested' and still allow the dog to move off the seat, or worse, step on the buckle, releasing themselves. When carrying multiple dogs, they should not be allowed to interfere with each other. Even the friendliest dog may bite if it's been stepped on enough times.

Even if the dog is in a crate, unless it is bolted to the floor it can also be thrown around the car, or, if fold up or 'cheap' crates are used, these can be destroyed by the force of the dog hitting it from the inside.

My van has been specially designed to contain the dogs safely and securely. I have two custom built crates at the back of the van, lockable.

Space for a Great Dane in the back, she chose to get in this crate.

A metal divider and bulkhead for the front half – this works just like the crates in the back but there is more headroom for the larger dogs.

Conrad and Scarlet, enjoying the view, their height lets them see out of the windows.

The bulkhead prevents them from coming forward into the cab, even in the event of an collision.

From the outside, the van looks tiny.

Scarlet and Conrad seem quite comfy though!

Many thanks to Advanced Systems (UK) Ltd in Kent, especially Alan who took my wishlist, told me which bits were ridiculous, and made the rest exactly how I imagined it. I'm very happy with the van!