From Tragedy, Information?

Posted: June 12, 2012 in Safety
Tags: ,

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!

  1. Mary Jo says:

    I think it’s always a good idea to have your dogs get used to both crates as well as a good car harness. I prefer harnesses myself, particularly since it’s very easy for me to travel safely in other people’s cars without as much concern for where the crate will fit, etc. and they don’t seem to be as prone to failure particularly in a high impact crash. Some harnesses do seem to allow a bit too much movement, and you do need to work with the dog when they are younger to discourage possible chewing. I find my dogs are much happier riding with harnesses as well, as with a properly fitted one they don’t get thrown around as much as they do in a crate. My last dog would stand up in the car most of the trip in a crate for this reason, but would lie down and even sleep with a harness. Larger numbers of dogs such as were involved in this crash though lead to more difficulties in terms of having them properly secured given the issues with space.

    • 4stardogs says:

      My personal dogs ride crated or belted in a crash tested belt – each option can be useful for different scenarios for sure! With all restraints, look for testing to ensure that they aren’t going to release your dog in an accident – this is something easy to overlook when looking at the wide variety of options out there.

  2. I drive a Toyota Sienna minivan. My dogs’ wire crates are always strapped in the back of the van for easy access through the back door. I was rear-ended at low speed by a midsize pickup (he was accelerating from a dead stop, so I think probably not more than 20 mph). My dogs were not in the crates at the time; the crates were not damaged; but the back door could not be opened. The center of my van was full at the time, so I’d have had to completely empty the van to get at the dogs through the backs of the crate if they’d been there. (One crate has a back door but the other does not, so I’d have had to pop open the back wire wall.)

    Another experience, when the dogs were in their crates and I had inadvertently not strapped the crates in after I had recently removed the crates. The crates sit atop 4x4s. I had to brake very hard for some reason–much harder than normal–not enough for the tires to squeal (I do have ABS) but still very hard, and the crates slid off the 2x4s and halfway to the front of the car. Hate to think what would’ve happened in a high-speed crash.

    I’ve previously blogged about various people’s anecdotal experiences:

  3. Susan Mann says:

    I’ve had a few minor accidents with dogs in the car. The first one was in a station wagon with one dog crated, 2 loose in the back. Minor damage at moderate speed, but with glass all over the ground at the back, on a pretty busy road. What saved me from any issues was actually training- dogs were trained to wait for a release, and even my 60 pound bony pointer mix was taught to let me carry him. I was able to get both unrestrained dogs on leashes and carry them across the debris and glass and then get the crated dog out. I was very fortunate- a friend had actually made those training suggestion as a result of an accident she had years ago, although I don’t fool myself that if the accident had been worse I could have had a real tragedy. Subsequent accidents have all been with all dogs crated, and no issues.

  4. Ashlee says:

    I drove an older (’97) boxy body style jeep cherokee. I was hit by a teen driver running a red light at approx. 45 mph. I had a second to try to avoid being hit and turned away from the oncoming car as far as I could, so he hit the driver’s side front corner of my jeep – and basically sheared off the front of the jeep from the wheel’s forward. That night I placed my 8yo 45lbs mix breed in the front seat like I always did with him, as I backed out of the driveway I had a weird feeling and stoppped and put him in the back in my larger breed dog’s crate. I am so thankful that I did. The crate he was in was too big for him, by quite a bit. He was thrown into the side of the crate in the crash. His injuries consisted of basically severe whiplash with extreme neck and back pain, he didn’t sleep for 2 days, he couldn’t get comfortable in any position. Finally, a combo of pain meds, muscle relaxers and steroids started to make progress. He made a full recovery, but it took several weeks.

    My second accident was also in an older boxy body style jeep cherokee (’00). I was rear-ended by a mini-van accelerating to get through a yellow light that I stopped for. My dogs were not in this accident. The back hatch door was caved in and unable to be opened. My crates were set up in the back of the jeep with the doors opening out to the hatch door. The crates are strapped in and set back from the hatch door by about 8 inches. The crates were undisturbed. In anticipation of an event like this I keep a set of bolt cutters that are big enough to cut open my crates tucked in between the bucket seats in the front seat, so that either the driver or passenger can access the cutters easily. I have since upgraded the wire crates to the ones that have doors on both ends, but I still keep the cutters in the car.

    I also have in case of emergency packets on both crates, on both ends. Nylon pencil pockets designed for 3 ring binders that include information on emergency contacts, photos of the dogs, vaccine information, age and any health concerns. I have a similar packet of information in my glove box as well.

    It will be interesting to see what your findings are when you complete this project.

  5. Donna Batdorff says:

    I recently started harnessing my dog on long trips, but still get a little relaxed on the short ones. Shame on me. Coming home from an agility trial I had to slam on the brakes when someone pulled right in front of me. Ginger (my 60 lb standard poodle) was partially flung into the space behind the driver’s seat. She was still partially in the back seat, but couldn’t get back up, because the part of the back seat that folds down, came flying forward and was on top of the part of Ginger that was still in the back seat. I pulled in the first driveway and got things situated. I’m lucky we were in a spot I could do that because I was driving with one hand trying to push up the back seat so it wouldn’t put pressure on her. The idiot who pulled in front of me was trying to make a right hand turn from the left land and just pulled right across….then when they realized what they had done (almost caused a collision) they just kept going.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s