What Carmakers Offer for Pets

The automaker that caters most to man's best friend appears to be Sweden's Volvo, which offers nets that span the space between the ceiling and the backrests of the front or rear seats. The nets fasten to ceiling anchors up top and attach to the cargo floor by means of tie-down hooks. There's also a retractable style, similar to a cargo cover, that has become popular because it can be attached in moments as opposed to minutes.

The Volvo XC90 can be fitted with a metal divider at the dealership.

The Volvo XC90 can be fitted with a metal divider at the dealership.

In addition to nets, which are available on everything from Volvo's smallest model, the V50 wagon, to its largest, the XC90 SUV, Volvo has set up its dealers with a collection of more rigid metal dividers. Available for all wagons and the five- or seven-seat SUV, the Steel Cargo Barrier costs between $295 and $305 plus installation, which takes about a half hour, according to Volvo.

A vertical grate is also available to divide the cargo area into halves, separating a dog from cargo or another dog. It costs roughly $160 and can be supplemented by one or two gates to contain the pooch when the liftgate is open. The barrier, divider and gate together have a list price of $555.

A pair of metal grilles can create an enclosed space for pets in the Volvo S80's trunk when the backseat is folded forward.

A pair of metal grilles can create an enclosed space for pets in the Volvo S80's trunk when the backseat is folded forward.

The most unique — and peculiar — option is a pair of grilles for the S80 sedan that divides its trunk in two, turning it into something like a pet carrier, with a front gate that blocks the opening to the cabin once the smaller side of a split, folding seatback is lowered. If a terrible terrier causes mayhem in the backseat, he can be put behind bars until he's rehabilitated.

Its emphasis always on safety, Volvo stipulates that all of its barriers are rated to contain a dog (or cargo, for that matter) weighing up to 100 pounds in a 30-mph collision. In a collision, a loose pet can become an unguided missile, putting itself and any other occupants at great risk of injury. The barriers' effectiveness is diminished with heavier dogs or at higher speeds, but they're better than wimpy suction-cup nets, and much better than nothing. For maximum protection, a harness is always the best way to go.

As for other car manufacturers, few offer anything specifically aimed at pets, but most had something to say about how their cars handle pet-carrying chores.

"In a lot of focus-group discussions, especially with boomers, we found that they of course love their pets," said Denise Morrissey, a Toyota spokeswoman. "In fact, we found that they pretty much take them anywhere. While [a] vehicle wasn't specifically designed for pet needs, there were vehicles designed for multiple needs."

The Toyota FJ Cruiser has a water-repellant, easy-to-clean interior that's great for pets.

The Toyota FJ Cruiser has a water-repellant, easy-to-clean interior that's great for pets.

For example, in the FJ Cruiser, Morrissey said, the "interior is designed to accommodate muddy, dusty environments, which would also benefit animals. Easy cleaning and maintenance are elements of the interior, as well. So you have seating materials that are water-repellent and also provide ventilation, because they're covered with a breathable resin coating."

At GM, the automaker used to have specific pet-related equipment, but "they no longer sell any of those types of products due to low sales," said Tony Macrito, a GM spokesman. Still, some of their cars have equipment that can help. Saab has some pet-related accessories in the 9-3 SportCombi and 9-5 SportCombi (wagon), including a cargo space divider, a cargo mat, a cargo apron and a cargo guard in the back; the 9-5 SportCombi also has a trunk tray. The Saturn Vue has a cargo management system.

Similarly, Volkswagen's Jetta and Passat wagons offer cargo partitions, while driver accessories include a VW Beetle squeaky toy (great for dogs, says VW spokesman Clark Campbell), air freshener and squishy pillow. Other VW gear includes heavy-duty floor mats and cargo liners.

Nissan offers a Pet Guard Divider accessory that "helps to keep pets secure while in the cargo area of a vehicle," said Darryll Harrison, a Nissan spokesman.

At Chrysler, some seat fabrics repel stains, control odor and reduce static electricity, all important for pet owners, notes Chrysler spokesman David Barnas. He said Chrysler's Stow 'n Go seating "makes it easy [to get] crated pets in and out," and also notes the "rear outlet if you're dealing with show dogs and you need to do any grooming."

The Dodge Magnum has a "rear liftgate that is hinged midway between the C- and D-pillar, opening straight up instead of swinging out," Barnas said. This allows easy access for pets of all sizes. Barnas said the 11.3-square-foot opening can easily swallow a large dog crate.

Other items and features that can make traveling with your pet easier:

  • Fold-up backseat cushions: allow a larger area on the floor for pets to lie down
    Honda Ridgeline, Dodge Dakota
  • Fold-flat second-row seats: open up cargo area for more pet space
    Just about every wagon/SUV/minivan
  • Fold-flat front passenger seat: see above
    Toyota Tacoma, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Dodge Caliber, Toyota Sienna, Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Edge, Nissan Xterra, Pontiac Torrent
  • Hard-coated load floor/folding seatbacks: scratch resistance, easy cleanup
    Jeep Compass, Dodge Caliber, Toyota FJ Cruiser, Chevrolet HHR, Toyota Yaris hatchback, Chevrolet TrailBlazer, Honda Element, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Honda CR-V
  • Washable/stain-resistant upholstery: easy cleanup
    Dodge Caliber, Toyota FJ Cruiser, Jeep Compass, Jeep Wrangler ('07), Honda Element, Chrysler Aspen, Chrysler Pacifica, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Chrysler Sebring ('07), Dodge Nitro, Dodge Dakota, Dodge Durango, Dodge Ram 1500 Mega Cab, Jeep Patriot
Posted on 10/16/06