Monday, June 18, 2012

Car Safety

After reading about Elicia Calhoun's terrible car accident, I decided it was time to buckle down (pun intended) on car safety for my two.  A few people asked what I did, so I thought I'd blog about it.
Bad parenting!

My husband and I travel frequently--and the dogs ALWAYS come with us.  Because of that, we always take my husband's car which is a 2003 Mazda Tribute (small SUV).  The dogs are usually crated, but it was always such a pain.  Bentley is way more restless in a crate than out.

Previous set up

But, we really do usually do crate them.  It was a pain, though, because the crate wasn't secured, not to mention that the two of them were sharing one large (36") crate and Lexi was NOT happy about that (Bentley tends to get restless in the car).  So, we decided things had to change.

My plan was always to move to two crates and have them in the very back.  I liked that we could put the seats up or down and if the seats were up that was added security to help contain the crates.  However, after reading quite a bit about the crumple zone on most vehicles, I realized that the crates would likely be crushed back there.

So, we did some re-arranging and decided they should go in the center of the car.  I felt like that was the safer place from them to be.  We did have to make a few compromises.  The front seats now won't lay down very far, so no more comfy napping as a passenger.  Also, we knew we were going to secure them in somehow, so that meant no more taking my husband's car if we were going to meet up with friends/potentially have anyone else in the car.  It also meant packing another large crate that we would use in hotels, etc... since these are not going to come out frequently (but we have soft crates for that).

The biggest problem we encountered was that we had two 30" crates, but only one of them had double doors (side and front).  We decided it wouldn't be safe to just have one with one door because if we packed suitcases/ the back, it would be really hard to get the dog out quickly (also a pain for rest stops).  So off we went to PetSmart to buy another 30" crate. (I can't remember the brand and will update this ASAP--but they only had 1 brand with double doors).
Lexi approves of both options!

We also bought new crate pads (since the crate size changed, and I wanted something easier to clean and that wouldn't make any noise when Bentley wandered around).  I really like these Kong ones.  They are machine washable, seem easy to just wipe off and have a bolster on the side that looks comfy.   I considered the lamb skin looking ones, but thought they looked hot especially if we ever use them at trials (sometimes we crate out of the car).  Also looks like they would get dirty easily.

Anyways, the issue with the new crate is that its door was on the same side (right, if you're facing the front door) as the other crate.  So my husband had to completely undo and then rebuild the crate with the door on the opposite side (easier than it sounds).  He also had to flip the door to open the other way because the door wouldn't open all the way.
New set up
 Next step was to secure the crates in place.  We found some nice ratchet straps at Home Depot for really cheap (something like this).  The hard part was finding something to hook to.  I ended up hooking them to the anchors of the seats on the floor.  I don't think that they could ever loosen, even in an accident because the crates cannot be pushed forward at all (since the folded seats AND the front seats are in the way). The only bad thing is if the car were to flip, the straps would not hold down the crates (there is nothing to hook the back to).  I am still thinking about what we can do about that (we have extra ratchet straps).

Ratchet straps
The very last thing I did was to create an ICE (In Case of Emergency) pack.  It was super easy to do, and made me feel much better.  The front says "Dog Emergency Information Inside" then at the bottom "Dog's Name: BENTLEY".   The bag is a pencil case, and they are attached using plastic zip ties.


Inside there are two pieces of paper, one has a lot of information including dog description, owner information, vet information and emergency contacts.  The second page has information regarding what to do if I'm incapacitated (ie: don't take the dog to a shelter, all expenses guaranteed by owner or owner's estate, etc...), or the dog is injured or lost.  I am happy to share my template if anyone is interested.


  1. Great job. I like the pencil cases. I may do that too. I have my crates in the middle of my car but I have a van so its easier. Plus I took a seat out and I can attach the straps to the metal things in the floor the that seat was attached to. I also zip tied all the metal sides of the crates together to make them hold a little better. Im not sure how if would do on impact but it was worth a shot.

  2. Great post. Maybe our next agility blogosphere can be on travel safety! :)

  3. Terrific job modifying your car to handle two crates like that! Elicia's accident is all I have been able to think about since it happened. So scary. We all just do the best we can to plan for things that may happen. It's all we can do.

  4. Hi Ashley - Would you share your template for the ICE packet please? skelly1313 at . Thanks -- need to do these :) Shannon

  5. Hi Ashley,

    Could you send me your ICE packet template too? kate19826 at

    This is a great idea and for as much as I travel I should have these on my dog's crates!