Dear Sinéad and Siouxsie:
I recently read an article at the Portland Press Herald website about a couple from Gorham that rented a truck to go save some Golden Retrievers in Alabama. While their intentions are noble, my immediate concern became the safety of the dogs in the back of the rental truck. I am a truck rental dealer and I know how hot those boxes get, even here in Maine. There are no windows and there is no air conditioning or ventilation of any sort, and Alabama and the southern states are still very hot this time of year. Would you please let well-intentioned readers know that they need to look at alternative methods of transport when rescuing a group of animals?
Sinéad: Oh, my! Mama showed us the article you mention, and it was really wonderful of those people to go to Alabama and rescue all those dogs. But still . . . in a Ryder truck?
Siouxsie: We don't even like riding in cars, let alone inside a giant box with no ventilation!
Sinéad: True, it can be difficult to find a way to transport a large number of dogs at once, especially bigger dogs like golden retrievers. But Mama says there are other kinds of vehicles that might work better. Like vans, for example.
Siouxsie: Or those kind of trucks they have on shows like "Animal Cops," where each animal has its own little cage.
Sinéad: We should point out that we think anyone who's involved in animal rescue--whether they're people from a breed rescue society, animal shelter workers, animal control officers and cruelty investigators, or just ordinary people who find an injured animal by the road and bring it to the vet for treatment--are heroes. Anyone who takes the time to care for an abandoned or abused animal, and bring the people who perform such cruel acts to justice, deserves a lot of credit for the good work they do.
Siouxsie: But with that in mind, we do believe that if you run a breed rescue organization, you should be prepared to transport animals in the safest way possible. And loading a bunch of dogs into the back of a rental truck is not exactly the safest way.
Sinéad: It's very important that animals be properly restrained. Animals can get injured in car accidents--or even just in sudden stops--if they're not crated or leashed properly. Cats and small dogs should be placed in crates in the back seat of a car, van, or SUV. Mama puts us in our kitty carriers in the back seat of her car and then puts the seat belts around our crates so that we don't slide all over the place.
Siouxsie: Medium and large dogs can be placed in the back of station wagons or small SUVs, as long as you buy one of those screen things that keeps the dog in the back section of the car. Mama says you can find those at pet stores locally or online, and maybe even in auto parts stores. Medium and large dogs can also be restrained by specially made safety harnesses that work like seat belts. These can be found at pet stores or ordered through pet-oriented websites or magazines.
JaneA: While we're on the subject of safe animal transportation, let's talk about dogs in the back of pickup trucks. This is a big no-no! I know we see it all the time here in Maine, and most people probably assume it's no big deal, but if your dog is loose in the back of a pickup, there are a bunch of really bad things that could happen.
Sinéad: For example, if your dog sees another dog (or a squirrel or some other interesting animal) on the sidewalk and decides he wants to jump out and say hi, he could be very badly hurt if your truck is moving when he decides to make his escape.
Siouxsie: Or if you stop suddenly or get in an accident, your dog could be thrown a great distance and be severely injured or even killed.
JaneA: Even if none of these things happen, your dog could get an eye or nose injury because of flying matter in the air. A dust particle in the eye is usually no big deal--a little blinking and a few tears and it's gone--but if that dust particle hits your dog's eye at 50 miles an hour, it's going to be much more painful and irritating. So please, for the sake of your dog's safety and health, don't let him ride in the back of your pickup!
Sinéad: We like dogs (most dogs, anyway), and we'd hate to see a good dog get hurt because of a bad decision by his person.
Siouxsie: Who's this "we?"
Sinéad: Oh, come on! I've seen you be friendly with dogs before.
Siouxsie: Do you see what I have to put up with? . . . Mama, I'm hungry.
JaneA: You've already had supper, Siouxsie.
Sinéad: Yeah, Miss Flabby-Flanks.
JaneA: Sinéad, you know that's not polite. Your sister isn't fat; she's big-boned.
Siouxsie: Just you wait, you little wimp. I'm gonna get you!
JaneA: Ladies, please. Well, I guess that does it for this week's column. Remember, if you have any questions about cat behavior or health (or anything else cat-related), you can always send Sinéad and Siouxsie an e-mail. We'll be glad to answer any questions you might have.
Got a question? Need some advice? E-mail Sinéad and Siouxsie at firstname.lastname@example.org. None of the advice in this column is meant to be a substitute for regular veterinary care.