Archive for the ‘The Other Kind of Accident’ Category

If you’re anything like me, your dogs are important members of your family. When I replaced my main vehicle in 2012, while writing this blog, I specifically looked for vehicles that would work for my pets as well as my human family. After settling on the 2011 RAV4, I started researching safer crate options and stumbled across the Variocage in 2013. I was impressed by the thought that went into the design AND the crash testing. The fact that it was designed not to displace the seats it rested against was huge for me as we expected to be adding a little human to our family in a few years. I hoped never to find out how it actually worked in an accident, but I was confident it was a good option for my current animals and an eventual human addition.

On June 7th, 2018, I found out exactly how well the Variocage works, thankfully on a trip when I wasn’t carrying a dog or two as I often do.



A box truck ran into my RAV4 while I was stopped at a light. The police report estimates that they were going about 40mph (65kmh) at the time of impact.  There were no signs of braking beforehand. I was shoved into the vehicle in front of me. Steam began pouring into the passenger cabin as soon as we came to a stop. I turned off the car and leaped out, screaming at the truck, and raced to check on my 2yo son sitting in his car seat behind me.

He was covered in glass, and upset about being awoken by the impact, but safe. The seat his carseat was resting on had moved forward, but the Variocage had done what it was supposed to: it had slid in on itself, absorbing crash forces, and not harming the seat my son’s carseat was attached to. 


The impact of the crash hadn’t been straight on because of the rear spare tire mount on my RAV4. The Variocage had flexed a bit, in addition to the controlled crumple action, and the middle yellow pillar and been shoved inward, though the doors were still tightly latched. There was glass inside the kennel, and if there had been dogs inside they would have been jostled about, but certainly not skewered or loose! IMG_2987The divider had bent a LOT more than it would have if it had been properly secured – it was only secured by two instead of the full complement of bolts because of a recent adjustment – but it still was not dangerous. At the tow yard later, I was able to pull items in the Variocage out via the ‘escape hatch’ with no issues whatsoever.

I am forever sold on the value of Variocages, and I’ve already ordered my replacement for my new vehicle from 4×4 North America, who now has a policy to replace any Variocage destroyed in an accident! How awesome is that?!

Thank you Variocage, for being there when dog people need you the most!

This is the third 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 7&8 from Ashlee

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 stopped 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.

Story 9from Erin, Four Paw Drive’s blogger

In August, I was returning home from a vet visit with my foster dog, Laurel, in her wire crate in the second row of my Impreza. I stopped at a light and as the light turned green I was rear ended by an SUV who didn’t even hit the brakes. The SUV ended up deciding to make the accident a hit and run unfortunately, so I don’t have any info on how fast they were going, but it was hard enough to fling all the stuff on the front seat onto the floorboard and my foster dog into the side of her crate.

The SUV’s bumper over-rode the Impreza’s, so there was nothing between the SUV and my rear crate but the hatch. The rear crate suffered a small dent in the corner, but no other damage.  Laurel and I both were fine, just slight soreness the next day, but the impact jammed my rear hatch shut and totaled my car. We were only 4 miles from home!

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….

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.