People who treat their pets more like family means they’re taking Fido on the road, and now car-makers are beginning to sniff out a new market.
In a recent customer survey, Saab found that more than 60% of owners had dogs and traveled with them frequently, spokesman Steve Janisse said. It now sells a $19.95 belt for strapping dogs to passenger seat belts. A cargo track on a new Saab wagon is designed so a leash (sold for $49.95) can be hooked to it, allowing the dog some mobility.
Later this year, Ford plans to make a “pet package” for buyers of its new Focus subcompact. The packages, expected to sell for less than $200, include a pet safety belt and an insulated, tip-resistant water bowl.
Doctors Foster & Smith, a mail-order company in Rhinelander, Wis., sells a $9.99 harness that allows a dog to be strapped to a seat belt in any vehicle. The company sells 14,500 of the harnesses annually, promoting them as a way to protect pets in case of an accident and to make sure drivers stay focused on the road.
Abbey White, 39, of Oakland, for instance, bought a harness to hook her yellow Labrador retriever, Poppy, to her station wagon’s seat belt after she heard that the recent accident that injured best-selling author Stephen King was caused by a dog running loose in a minivan.
“If people have seat belts, why shouldn’t animals?” White asked.
Martin Smith, a veterinarian and co-owner of Doctors Foster & Smith, said he has treated hundreds of dogs who were injured when they jumped from open car windows or were hurled about inside the cab in an accident.