Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hops in the Right Direction: An Ounce of Prevention

In this post, I mentioned I've recently met with some people who I hoped would provide me with some new thoughts for my Hops posts, and one of them is Melissa, the wonderful, warm woman behind Zerimax, a company that sells seat belts designed especially for dogs.  The idea came to her after an awful accident in which her dog, Max, was severely injured.

I admitted to not knowing much about seat belts for dogs, and through a series of emails, we conducted an informal sort of interview (okay, we also talked about Aaron Rodger's butt, so it might have been more "chat" than "interview.")

I don't know much about doggie seat belts--can you fill me in?
Unfortunately, only about 2% of people use dog seatbelts, but there are a lot of different kinds out there for people to choose depending on their dog breed, weight, etc.  Basically the same logic that goes for people applies to dogs; we know that statistically we have  better chance of surviving an accident if we are buckled in vs. being thrown.  Also when a dog is thrown they turn into a small missile and can injure others in the car.  A 10lb dog has the force of 80lbs just going 40mph.  Overall the same rules that you would follow for a baby apply here too, so ideally you want to put them in the back seat, not in the front because of the airbags. 

The reasons that people don't use dog seatbelts vary from simply not being aware that they exist, to thinking it's an extra hassle (not convenient), and to lack of consistency (where the dog wins out) since they would rather sit on your lap.  But the reality is that with a little effort, some rescue remedy (natural Valium for dogs), and choosing a mechanism that fits with your lifestyle/car, etc. it can be done.  

It looks like your seat belt is just for small dogs--do bigger dogs have different needs?  
I developed a mechanism, the Doggie Seatbelt, that works with your small dog's existing harness (little dogs should wear harnesses vs neck collar because of their fragile bones and trechea).  It basically attaches to you car seatbelt; then you clip them in, where you would attach the leash.  Most seatbelts have the harness built in and there are two issue with that:

1. Little dogs have drastically different body shapes, so it's tough to get a good fit, Max would wiggle out of them.  

2.  If your dog already uses a harness, then you have to take their harness off or put it on top, which is not comfortable for them.  

So by being able to just use the existing harness, it makes easier which leads to more consistency.  Though, as I looked into the market place I found some great options for larger dogs that have quality assurance (i.e., testing), which I have started selling on my site as I got so many requests for a larger dog option.  I'm actually about to add the Bergen line.  

Here you can see the product options.

You mentioned that Illinois should be the sixth state to require seat belts for dogs.
Well that is a long term goal of mine, but I have just started digging into it, so a lot more to come on that.  To date I've spoke to two lobbyists and a lawyer from the SBAC, and it seems that passing this law by itself isn't likely, but it could be tagged on to something around Distracted Drivers/texting & driving, something bigger that already has momentum.  My next step is to do some research in the 5 states that have the law to find out just how they did it.   As much as it sucks to have move to laws, that process takes time (hence why this is a long term goal), and ultimately if passed it brings awareness with it.  Think about how the buckle in campaign for humans still continues to date, and it's been around for lots of years.  My short term goals are around bringing awareness of the options and  to educate people on how to to chose the right product as well as training your dog successfully.  My plans for the Spring/Summer dog events is to bring a car (instead of just doing a boring table), hopefully a cool convertible,  and I'll bring the different seatbelt options so owners and dogs can test out different seatbelts and hopefully find one that works for them.

Since he regained the use of his legs, have you had to make any adjustments to accomodate for him?  Yes, more right after the accident, but still to date, I consider him a special needs dog.  Initially we had get a new crate for him (we hadn't crated him in years), so that was mentally tough for him, since he was used to roaming the house and we also had to keep him in the crate at night (the first week I slept on the floor with him).

Now we have stairs for him up to the bed, got a bunch of rugs and carpets in our condo that was mostly hardwood floors since he still slips easily.  And not a big deal since he's little, but we have to carry him up long flights of stairs, as he can only do a few (it's a momentum thing).   

The big one was his loss of control with both #1 and #2.  When we would get home he would just start peeing everywhere.  The peeing got back in control within a few months, the #2 is still sometimes sporadic, and it's like it just pops out  - he's like what happened and looks around!    So yes I've been pooped on a lot!  (I asked her about this in person.  She shrugged.  "It's organic.") 

As you know, I am a big advocate for giving dogs with altered mobility a second chance through adoption, and I like to think of myself as a conscientious dog owner, but I had never before considered Prada's safety in the car beyond having a bed that she was trained to stay in.  Melissa's product is a common-sense solution to an issue that too many pet owners simply never think about.

Let's make 2012 a safer year for our pets to travel.


Willow and Sammy are a bonded chihuahua mix pair.  Willow, who doesn't use her fourth leg, is the cuddlebug; Sammy is the spritely one.  They have room in their hearts for a very special person--do you have room in you heart for them?


  1. Very interesting and informative. I now know more about dog seat belts than ever before. Thanks, Biped and Melissa.

  2. Glad to hear it! As long as I've owned dogs, I've never even thought about how in an accident, a dog could hurt not only themselves but me. If nothing else, it's good to be aware of the options.