Dog Rescue at the Detroit Auto Show

A Novel Exhibit at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show

I try to visit the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) aka the Detroit Auto Show every year, and this year I made it down on Tuesday of the public week.  As usual, my focus was on vehicles with dog hauling potential, whether they were small, like the Honda Fit, medium size like the Buick Regal TourX, minivans like the Chrysler Pacifica or big vans like the Ram Promaster.  I’m looking for flat load floor, no liftover at the rear hatch/door, and easy conversion from passenger to cargo modes.  A wide interior package without intrusions from wheel wheels or custom item holders is also a plus.  In other words, maxium carrying capacity with minimum effort to get stuff in and out of that space.  The Honda Odyssey has a vacuum which is a really nice touch, especially if you sometimes transport straw for barn hunts!

Sign explaining Subaru adoption event hoursSubaru’s White Picket Fence

I noticed when I got to the Subaru display that there was a area with green carpet surrounded by a picket fence.  There were multiple banners proclaiming Subaru Loves Pets and a sign sporting the Michigan Humane Society Logo.  A small sign taped to the gate to the area said that there would be adoptions for animals through the Michigan Humane Society on the weekends.

Subaru Dealer Partnerships With Local RescuesSubaru Loves Dogs Banner

On the Subaru website there is a section around Subaru Loves Pets, which is one of the five pillars of the Subaru Love Promise. I saw references to local dealers working with local rescue agencies to  support adoption events, and this event fits that description. I learned Subaru also held an adoption event at the LA Auto show last fall using the same display partnering with Best Friends. Best Friends is a national organization, but one with a regional office and a large coalition of partner shelters in the LA area. There is also some pet merchandise on the brand website, but the focus is more about doing good for pets than pushing branded pet stuff.

Volvo is Also Getting Into the Auto Show Rescue Act

I discovered that Volvo has been doing something similar. The brand started promoting safe pet travel in 2018 and drew attention to this initiative with their adoption events in 2018 at both the Chicago and New York auto shows, both times partnering with local rescues.  Most of the Volvo dog accessories focus on safe containment of dogs within the car with custom-fit barriers and car harnesses.  Volvo mentions that it makes a donation to the Petfinder Foundation for every dog accessory sold.  Volvo is promoting safe pet travel as a support to its longstanding corporate safety promise.

Make Your Dog Marketing Consistent With Your Corporate Brand

I’ve been observing vehicle manufacturers promote their products with dogs for years.  What I like about what I see in these rescue-OEM pairings is that the message is tied into a brand promise that runs through all the brand’s marketing. In other words:

  • Subaru Loves = Subaru Loves Dogs
  • Volvos are Safe = Volvo wants your dog to be just as safe as your family

Love has a more obvious tie-in with rehoming dogs than safety does, but both are caring messages and I think an appropriate match to an adoption event. If you’re going to play the dog card, it should be obvious you mean it, and that the dog-centric part of your message isn’t just about selling branded collars and leads.

Cleo Parker



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Best Friends’ Pet Boarding Facility at Disney World

Best Friends petcare logoThe New York Times travel section featured a piece on a new pet boarding facility affiliated with Disney World. Best Friends Pet Care at Walt Disney World is part of a national chain of pet boarding facilities. They are consolidating operations of the five boarding facilities which it operates for  WDW  guests into one large facility with capacity for 270 dogs and 30 cats which will open in August, 2010.  The luxury suite description fully recognizes owners’ propensity to humanize their pets, including such niceties as turn down service and ice cream treats.  What might in another facility be called  indoor-outdoor runs are called  suites with relief patios.

An interesting option that I’ve seen featured at other luxury kennels are suites that do not have an outdoor option at all, but instead confine dogs indoors all the time but include several daily walks.  Drawing on my experience working in boarding kennels, I will say that some dogs don’t understand the run concept and this option may work just as well for them even though they may not have as many opportunities for potty breaks as dogs in a more traditional kennel setup.

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Dog friendly Honda Element at NAIAS

Dog Friendly Honda Element

Dog Friendly Element

I attended the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit this morning and was able to see the Honda Element decked out with its Dog Friendly package. I’ve read about this option before in both the trade and dog-centric press, but this was my first opportunity to see it in person.  The package includes a soft sided crate anchored in the vehicle via a platform which sits a couple inches above the floor and encloses the area behind and below the seatback of the rear seats.  There is a collapsible ramp for the dog to walk up into the car and a fan in the rear compartment which directs air toward the crate. The car’s plastic floor cover is embossed with a bone design and all the seats have a dog-patterned seat covers which feel something like a wetsuit, I assume that this fabric is dog hair and slobber repellent.  A spill-resistant dish, collar and lead, tag, tote bag and poop bag dispenser are also included; buyers order custom sized items after purchase.

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Dog business franchises

Via a referral from the Pet Biz Helper on Twitter, I discovered an article on the Small Business Trends site regarding pet-related franchises.  The article quoted statistics from the American Pet Products Association regarding the strength and growth of the pet industry and then listed a number of “young” pet franchises. Most were in the pet care services area, including boarding/daycare, grooming, photography, food delivery and waste removal.  One I found particularly interesting was Interquest Detection Canines, which provides canine scent detection services to schools and other organizations.  It appears that one of the things you purchase from the franchisor are the trained dogs.

The realization that this industry is recession-resistant has attracted attention from enterprising business people who are offering these franchise opportunities. Most pet businesses sectors, with the exception of pet supply retailers, are dominated by small businesses. The success of some services, like grooming, can be highly dependent on an individual person’s skills and personality, which to me seem like they would be difficult to standardize in a franchise model.  Others, like pet food vending and waste removal, may benefit from the franchise approach. It will be interesting to watch this trend as it develops.

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Dog Friendly Hotels

The New York Times featured an article about a trend toward more dog friendly hotels; which also notes that some of these are not really so friendly toward dogs over a certain size limit. This is similar to JetBlue which hypes its JetPaws program – limited to dogs that fit under the cabin seat, the regulations for which top out at 15 pounds.  The article talks about well known New York City hotels and their pet policies and also mentions several pet travel websites, PetsWelcome, PetFriendlyTravel, and DogFriendly.

Although it seems more upscale chains are starting to accept dogs, dog fees are also increasingly common, even at budget hotels like Red Roof Inn and Motel 6 which have been mostly dog-friendly for years.

My personal concern not only includes weight limits, but also numerical limits and per-pet fees which are not mentioned in the article.  As someone who owns and sometimes travels with multiple dogs, I’d like more friendliness toward the multi-dog traveller.

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Subaru teams with ASPCA

MediaPost reports that Subaru is sponsoring the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Prevention of Cruelty to Animals month in April. The car brand joins and Clorox (Fresh Step) as sponsoring a number of events across the USA to support the ASPCA’s Mission: Orange. Mission Orange targets specific communities to reduce euthanasia rates among the most at-risk (homeless) animals. The site describing the program does not specifically mention no-kill as a strategy, but seems to support that philosophy, which aims to rehabilitate and place animals where possible rather than euthanizing animals simply based on length of stay or number of animals in custody.  Subaru has a history of marketing to pet owners by supporting rescue organizations and offering pet-friendly vehicle accessories during its partnership with LL Bean which ran from 2000-2008.

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Motel 6 offers discounts to AKC dog owners

The AKC announced today a promotion with Motel 6 which offers a 10% discount off stays at Motel 6 and Studio 6 motels. The official rules state that this is limited to one pet per room, which is the standard policy for Motel 6.  I think it is actually one “small” pet, which my friend Lisa and I joked about incessantly the time we stayed at a Motel 6 on the way back from our national specialty in St Louis with 3 Bull Terriers ranging in size from 50 to 70 pounds.  If they enforce the number of pets this isn’t going to be a great policy for people travelling to dog shows as they often take more than one, but it’s good to see a motel chain taking a pro-dog position by reducing rather than raising rates for people travelling with their dogs.

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Toyota Venza gunning for Honda’s Dog Car crown

MediaPost notes a number of moves that Toyota is making to pomote the new Venza to dog owners. Toyota was the sole automotive sponsor of the Westminster Kennel Club dog show and has signed up to sponsor Cesar Milan’s Dog Whisperer in its fifth season. In previous seasons, Cesar drove  Jeeps and other Chrysler products. Toyota plans to promote Vensa at dog-related events and websites and is following in the steps of other manufacturers, like GMC and Saab, in offering dog related vehicle accessories. Kurgo is mentioned as a partner for these products, although dog accessories are not currently mentioned on the Toyota website.  I’ve never seen any of these attempts meet with great success, as the merchandise offered is frequently impractical and overpriced, but I will follow their efforts with interest. Since Honda has been a leader in the dog-friendly vehicle market, it’s interesting to see another Japanese manufacturer take this direction.

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Fairfield Inn – San Diego waives dog fee

Just saw a RT (re-tweet) from PetSmart about Marriott International’s tweet that there was a special promotion for travellers with dogs at the Fairfield Inn in San Diego. The $75 pet fee is waived and a variety of special dog items are offered; special good through April 27, 2009.  I was hoping to use my Marriott Miles to stay at Fairfield Inns on our trip last year from Detroit to Orlando, which requires an overnight stay. Unfortunately, the dog fee exceeded the cost of staying at a Red Roof Inn or Super 8 and I could not use the Marriott Miles to pay for it.

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NPR story on mass importation of pet shop puppies

This morning NPR aired a story about a humane society auction of toy breed puppies seized at the LA airport. The puppies, imported from South Korea, were accompanied by forged documents stating the five week old puppies were 5 months old and had had the required innoculations for importation. Of the 30 dogs in the shipment all were in poor condition and only 10 survived. These puppies were turned over to LA Animal services which nursed them to health and kept them for 5 months. When deemed ready for placement, there was so much interest in the pups the shelter was required to hold an auction. Small dogs, especially purebreds, and puppies are rarely available in shelters, so this amount of interest in these animals that have all three characteristics is not surprising. The story quotes the shelter manager starting the auction by warning that the pups were likely from substandard breeding stock and had obviously had a traumatic start in life, so “Buyer Beware.”  A representative from the American Kennel Club is quoted as saying when they stepped up their enforcement of substandard kennels that they also saw an increase in imported puppies bound for pet stores.  The story makes it clear that importation rules are not being strictly enforced; that documents are readily forged, apparently inspectors are not trained to spot puppies so obviously underage for the required rabies innoculations as the ones in this story.

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