Yes, Chevy has officially gone to the dogs. It’s all in celebration of National Pet Day, April 11. Today, at the 2012 New York Auto Show, Chevrolet showed off not only a pack of pooches thrilled to cavort in and about new Chevy products, but also gave show attendees a few tips on how to make their vehicles more pet-friendly.
Charlotte Read, a pet lifestyle expert, and her dog Hannah, a Golden Retriever (shown in the back seat of the Chevy Equinox crossover wearing a safety harness), teamed up with James Bell, the head of General Motors’ consumer affairs – and a few other captivating canines – to deliver safety tips and advice on making any vehicle more pet-friendly.
The safety tips couldn’t come at a better time. According to the 2011/2012 AAA/Kurgo survey, there are currently 76 million dogs in the U.S., among 46 million U.S. homes. That’s slightly more than two dogs per household. Among dog owners surveyed, on average, 56 percent said they do bring their dog with them in the car at any given time. Going into the summer travel season, 17 million identified themselves as definitely planning to bring their dog with them on vacation. Yet the survey showed that 84 percent of pet owners do not use safety restraints for their pets.
While it was tough tracking down Bell post-event, FamilyCarGuide did get to spend a few minutes with him in a phone interview. In essence, he was dog-gone impressed with the goings-on.
Chevrolet at NYAS pet day
Between 30 and 35 dogs and their owners were in attendance, proving that the invitation to a dog day at the New York Auto Show was definitely a hot-ticket item.
The focus of the event was to provide an awareness and understanding of what happens to a dog, especially a larger dog, that’s not tethered down in a moving vehicle. “We’re all very focused on keeping our kids safe, our passengers and ourselves – all the humans are well cared for,” said Bell, “but then we call Fido into the car and let him run around a little bit, jump on our laps and hang his head out the window.”
Bell said it was important to call out that not only are there products out there that can help keep your dog safe in the car, but to recognize that this is a bit of a dangerous maneuver, “not just for you as the driver, because of the distractions that can happen, but for the animal as well.”
Accessories to keep dogs safe
Prevention is the best way to keep dogs safe while riding in a vehicle, and there are a number of available accessories that can help do just that.
- Special harnesses that attach to the Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren (LATCH) in the back seat of a vehicle
- Ramps that enable dogs to climb into the vehicle
- Special soft-sided crates that can hold dogs in the back of an SUV
- Bumper protectors so that when dogs are jumping in they don’t wind up scratching the plastic
Safety and convenience technology
Bell also talked about the safety technology available in many of the vehicles from General Motors and Chevrolet that helps to minimize distraction and protect occupants, including dogs. Lane departure warning and forward collision mitigation systems, for example, alert drivers that they’re veering out of their intended lane or could be dangerously close to colliding with another vehicle, all as a result of driver distraction possibly due to Fido’s antics. Stability and traction control also help heighten driver awareness to potential dangers.
In addition, General Motors developed side curtain airbags primarily to protect vehicle occupants, but they’ve also discovered that with the huge numbers of dog owners who regularly travel with their dogs that these side curtain airbags also provide lifesaving protection for the canines as well in the event of a crash.
Almost all of the GM vehicles have side curtain airbags available, and they are available in the Chevy Volt, Equinox and Traverse that were on display at the 2012 New York Auto Show event. Bell also noted that the side curtain airbags in the Equinox and the Traverse implode for a longer duration than airbags in passenger cars, thus providing even more protection for passengers and pups.
Bell noted that vehicles like the three-row, eight-passenger Traverse “has really become the de facto replacement for a minivan in many people’s homes.”
Fold-flat seats make it easier to maneuver pets and crates. The Chevy Equinox, Traverse and Tahoe SUVs have optional power lift-gates to make pet access easier. Remote unlock can come in very handy when dogs are trying to climb into a vehicle and the driver is either fumbling for a key or has his hands full.
Vehicles like the Chevy Volt, and others in the same size category, have features that make them pet-friendly such as tinted rear glass, fold-down seats, built-in LATCH system and passive lock system. “When you’re near the car, the passive lock system recognizes it and automatically unlocks all the doors,” said Bell. “Push the button on the keyfob and the tailgate opens up and this allows you to get the dog into place a lot quicker and safer.”
2012 Chevrolet Equinox - NYAS pet day
Recommendations to keep dogs safe in vehicles
Bell said that there are two basic recommendations for pet owners to keep their dogs safe in vehicles. First, and most important, is that dogs should always be properly restrained in the back seat of a car or the far back seat of an SUV. Never allow your dog to be in the front seat of any vehicle.
As for restraints, use an authorized harness that attaches to the In the worst case, if you don’t have a harness, at least attach the dog’s leash and/or collar to the seat belt to keep the dog secure.
Second, minimize distractions so that no one’s safety is compromised, not the driver, any passengers, or your dog (or dogs). This means being mindful not to have any food in the car that could cause Fido to dig around in the back seat, possibly looking for that hidden Cheerio between the cushions, or kids or other passengers frolicking with the pooch while the car is moving.
Also, don’t allow your dog to hang his or her head out the window. While it may be something doggie loves to do, it’s not safe. In an accident, serious injuries or death could occur, but there is also danger from rocks and other flying debris. There are special mesh screens that are available to fit over the window so that your dog can still smell the outdoor air while being prevented from putting his head out the window.
Finally, if you’re looking for a new vehicle that’s more pet-friendly, Chevy recommends that you search for one that is wide, tall, and slightly square at the back. Other pet-friendly vehicle requirements include plenty of cargo room and lots of cup holders to stow pet food and drink (and keep these items secure from your pooch’s reach).