Archive for June, 2012

This is the second in a series of stories shared by those who have been in accidents while traveling with their dogs. The goal of this series is to share anecdotes that may help others determine the safest travel options for animals in vehicles.

Have a story yourself? Four Paw Drive wants them all, regardless of the accident’s severity!  Send them to our email address:

Story 4  from Laura Gabbard

I drive a mini van. I was going 75 mph on a interstate at night and out of no where a deer darted out. I hit him head on. The highway patrolman estimated him to weigh in at about 200 lbs. I was traveling to a dog show with three papillons. They were each in old style deluxe varikennels. All bungee-d down in the center part of the van. While everything flew forward from the back, the crates did not move ! The tow truck guy found a piece of antler in my engine that was about 8 inches long. The dogs were all fine. I was banged up and bruised, but fine. I got the van back 7 weeks later … It was never the same.

Story 5 from Leaning Tree BCs

We hit a bull standing in the road broadside at 60mph after coming over a little rise in the road in the dark. When our headlights revealed him it was too late to even hit the brakes.

We had three of our best dogs in older style heavy plastic airline crates in the bed of our Dodge Ram 2500 with a topper. I believe we were lucky to not have them strapped down; we have a well secured topper and also to have the doors facing the back. All dogs were fine, though there were cracks in two of the crates. It was like hitting a brick wall. I don’t believe that standard wire crates strapped down would have held the dogs and strongly feel that they would have been pitched through the wire, and I also wonder if the plastic crates would have withstood the impact if they had been strapped down.

We also had a pup sleeping on the console between us, I found him on the floor limp as a noodle but fine; rerunning the events in my head, I believe that I put my left arm over him which would have slowed him when we hit.  Regardless, due to everyone being safe, we wouldn’t want to change a thing. It could have been so different if we had tried to stop or tried to avoid the bull – the outcome could have been so different.

Story 6 from Angelica Steinker (

About ten years ago, I was on my way to an agility trial on a Friday evening when a drunk driver rear ended me. A big SUV had jumped out of the lane ahead of me and suddenly I saw all the break lights were on. I did not know if the cars were stopped or slowing, so I guessed and slowed down and *BAM* that is when I was rear ended. I was in a Toyota 4Runner and was pushed over two lanes of traffic, rear ended again, and then launched into the median where I rolled three times.

My BC Nicki was in a soft crate. My BC Stevie was in a plastic crate. All my luggage landed on top of Nicki and collapsed the crate, also detaching the water bucket attached to the inside of the crate.

Stevie and Nicki were both alive, and while I was strapped to a board, the rescue people put them in the plastic crate together. The worst part was that they then proceeded to tell me that my dogs were going to go to animal services! Stevie is dog reactive so I was literally freaking out that they would kill my dog. Before I was transported, they refused to let me see my dogs and I was not able to touch them because I was strapped to a board. At the time, I was still married and my now ex-husband raced on the median past everyone to get to the dogs, arriving after I had already been transported.

When I got home from the hospital, Nicki was not putting weight on her left hind. I thought she tore her ACL. My vet came by a few hours later and she was weight bearing; my vet could not find anything. Years later, I figured her subsequent training challenges HAD to be a physical problem. This was finally confirmed when a vet took an xray of her left hind and it showed calcification of the injury. What had actually happened during the accident, was that presumably her leg got caught in the water bucket or the luggage that fell on her and tore her calf muscle off the back of her knee. The surgeon explained that this would not have shown on xray and so my vet could not have known. It only showed up once it was an old injury because of the calcification. He also explained that their was no surgery to repair this injury.

Stevie has had no problems physically that I am aware of as a result of the accident, but he did have PTSD. He was afraid of the car and being in a crate, so I had to do some counter conditioning. To this day he does not like the car but tolerates it.

I still wish i had not put Nicki in that soft crate. Please share this information so it can help other dogs. At the time, I could not logistically fit two hard crates and the luggage so I just slipped in a soft crate….

I’ve seen a number of people commenting recently that they are happy they have a larger, older model vehicle because “they just don’t make them like they used to” and that they feel safer knowing that their vehicle is bigger and heavier in the event of an accident because newer cars are so much lighter and made of softer materials (plastics vs steel for example). Are they correct? Will a heavier, tank like vehicle really keep you safer in a wreck?

Pretty stark, don’t you think?! My engineer husband described it this way: the flexible materials and built in crumple zones in the new vehicles dissipate the force of an accident away from the human’s body much more effectively than the design and materials in older vehicles.  Hitting a heavy vehicle like the Bel Air is like hitting a wall – your body takes the full force of the accident forces because there’s nothing there to absorb the energy and slow you down before you stop suddenly!

Similar forces are at play on your dogs in an accident, but we don’t yet have crates with airbags, so the material the crate is made of, how it “fits” the dog, and how it is secured in your vehicle will greatly impact how much force is being applied when it comes to a stop. Crates that don’t give, even a little, and those that are larger than the animal needs would seem to be the most risky – they become the equivalent of a Bel Air because they allow the animal to continue moving unimpeded before coming to a sudden stop on an unforgiving surface. We don’t yet have a modern vehicle version of a dog crate, either.

Disturbing to contemplate, but important to keep in mind as you choose a vehicle and consider your restraint options.

Here’s another video, this time of a 1962 vs. a 2002 Cadillac:

This is the first in a series of stories shared by those who have been in accidents while traveling with their dogs. The goal of this series is to share anecdotes that may help others determine the safest travel options for animals in vehicles.

Have a story yourself? Four Paw Drive wants them all, regardless of the accident’s severity!  Send them to our email address:


Stories 1, 2, and 3:

I’ve been in two minor accidents where I’ve put a car into a ditch.

The first time, my dog was basically unrestrained. He usually travels in a crate, but I couldn’t fit one in my sister’s car. He had a leash attached to his regular collar, looped around the seat, to try and prevent him from distracting me as I drove. The car went into the ditch and he swung by his collar and hit his knee on the dash. It was a low speed collision, and if he’d been crated or harnessed, he’d have been fine. Instead, he was lame for about a week while it healed.

The second time, I was driving a very full SUV. There were two dogs in crates (one in a sherpa, one in a varikennel, quite small for her) in the back, along with a huge amount of stuff. I went nose-first into the ditch/snow bank. Again, I wasn’t going that fast, but a loose dog would have ended up under the dash or flying around, for sure. Both dogs were totally fine. The only thing damaged in the accident were the front bumper (from scraping along the ground) and the toy guitar that was in the back!

I also had a near miss a few months ago. I was traveling in my small car with both dogs crated in the back (two varikennels, side by side across the back of the car, so the doors face the sides). I emergency stopped to avoid a semi truck who was not paying attention, and heard both dogs thunk against the sides of their crates. Both were totally fine. Again, loose, I expect they’d have hit something.

Another wreck this past weekend again brought the message home that those of us who travel with dogs need to be aware of many, many factors when it comes to keeping us and our animals safe.

I’ve seen several people who have been following the story of Elicia Calhoun and her dogs and their accident in the AZ desert ask for more information about how the dogs were traveling (restraint type, arrangement, etc.) and I myself have wondered the same about other reported accidents where dogs were involved.

Given that, I would like to take this opportunity to specifically ask for anyone who has been in an accident with their dogs in their vehicle to share details, no matter how minor the accident was, so that Four Paw Drive can help others learn what works and what doesn’t, and in the process help each other make road travel with pets safer. Information can be emailed to the blog at

Any and ALL information will be helpful to others and I’m happy to make details shared with me anonymous if requested in order to spread this information far and wide. Let’s take tragedy and turn it into something that helps others!

The Mazda5 really does look just like a small minivan, though technically it’s a crossover. I saw it on the lot at CarMax and had to give it a look – would it be a good smaller option with the flexibility of a van’s cargo space?!

Not exactly. The interior is quite small, and the second row appears to only slide forward, vs. folding or being removable as in most actual minivans.  It is a nifty crossover, however, and it might be a good option for smaller or fewer dogs.

Width between wheel wells (narrowest part of the vehicle): 40.25″

Cargo depth with all rows up: negligible

Cargo depth with the third row down: 37″ on the floor, 28.5″ deep at the narrowest point (seat back, 18″ above floor level)

It started to sprinkle, so I did miss a few dimensions unfortunately. Visually, it would appear that the hatch is about 38-40″ wide at the widest point.

MPG city: 21 mpg

MPG highway: 28 mpg

The captain’s chairs for the second row seems to be unique – I haven’t seen this layout in other third row vehicles, *except* for minivans – and while it does cut down seating when the third row is folded, it may provide a better riding experience for passengers in the second row. The downside to this layout is that items can slide from the cargo area, between the second row of seats, and into the driver’s row, so you may need to do some creative packing to prevent that.

There is an additional outlet in the cargo area and extra vents for AC/heat on the back of the console, providing better airflow to the back. There’s also an extra cargo light next to the fuse panel at the rear of the vehicle, which is handy for finding things in the way back at night.

The Mazda5 does lack flexibility in cargo arrangement due to the absence of removable or foldable second row seating.  Gas mileage is nice, and there are some nice add ons to make working in the cargo area easier, but it’s certainly not the best option in this category.