The issue of harnesses that will truly keep dogs secure in the event of a collision is still being worked on, but there are also other features in cars that make them more — or less — safe for companion animals. The online automotive resource Edmunds.com has determined the 10 types of vehicle best suited to dog safety, or at least dog comfort. They are all in the large-car category: no sedans. Here they are, in alphabetical order:
Dodge Journey: This vehicle has a rearview camera that prevents drivers from backing over pets while going in reverse, say, in the driveway. There’s also an in-dash cooler that can be used to store beverages , medicine, or food during long journeys; and steering-wheel mounted controls that can decrease driver distraction. Fifteen people are killed and more than 1,200 injured each year in crashes reported to involve a distracted driver, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and a survey by the Automobile Association of America (AAA) found that one out of three owners admits to being distracted by their dog while driving.
Ford Flex: Wide door openings allow pets to climb in and out easily. And the roomy interior is big enough to fit crates in which a larger dog can feel comfortable. This vehicle also has a refrigerated console.
GMC Acadia: Fold-flat seats in the rear offer more room for pets and their crates, while advanced climate control allows pets to stay cool enough in the back. This vehicle also offers a direct link to Poison Control via its OnStar feature, potentially useful as many dogs, especially puppies, are injured each year from ingesting pet poisons like antifreeze.
Hyundai Tucson: Remote keyless entry allows people to load their dogs more easily when their hands are full, say, managing a dog on a leash. There are also rear fold-flat seats and privacy glass that keep temperatures suitably low for furry friends.
Jeep Liberty: This vehicle, highly specialized for pets, offers owners a choice of crates, carriers, and even a ramp that helps arthritic or other dogs who might have difficulty walking get in and out. Other features include a split-folding rear seat and available keyless entry.
Kia Soul: The option of side curtain airbags can help protect pets (and their owners), and the rear privacy glass insures that pets remain cool and comfortable in the back.
Mazda 5: Sliding rear doors with a one-touch walk-in feature make it particularly easy to load pets into the car. The low cargo floor also facilitates easy pet access. This minivan has side curtain airbags in all three rows, too.
Mitsubishi Outlander: Fold-flat seating and stowable third-row seats give plenty of room for transporting even larger dogs. And the option of steering-wheel mounted auxiliary controls cuts down on driver distraction.
Subaru Tribeca: A rear back-up camera to keep pets safe behind the car and steering-wheel-mounted auxiliary controls for decreased driver distraction will keep them safe during the ride.
Volvo XC70: A blind spot warning system can be helpful should a dog impede the driver’s vision. There’s also an optional pet barrier designed to keep pets from flying around the car in the event of a collision. It’s not a one-size-fits-all system with suction cups and Velcro. Volvo crash tested the barrier to make sure it remains in place in the event of a collision. It can be installed by the dealer, who bolts it securely into the vehicle.