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AAA picks best cars for pet safety
by Tribune Staff
Sep 07, 2010 | 1320 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With more than 80 percent of dog owners bringing their canine companions in the car, dog lovers are looking at more than just engine specs and cup holders when buying a new vehicle.

AAA announced its top picks for dog friendly vehicles Aug. 18.

“More than 45 million households in the U.S. have a dog, so many vehicle manufacturers offer features designed to keep pets safe and comfortable and use easy clean-up materials for the owners,” said Michael Geeser, AAA's Nevada spokesperson.

AAA chose its top vehicles based on factors like crash test ratings, safety features, cargo area size, availability of tie-down hooks and ease of cleanup. Many of the vehicles offer rubber mats and some sort of restraint system.

AAA’s top pics for luxury cars are the BMW 3 Series Wagon and Volvo XC60.

Like many of the cars, the BMW 3 Series Wagon offers a divider to keep dogs from getting into the passenger area and distracting the driver. But the BMW has an option for a second divider to transport two dogs while keeping them separate.

AAA recommends the Subaru Forester or the Hyundai Santa Fe for people with an active lifestyle.

With the rear seats folded, the Subaru Forester has 68 cubic feet of cargo space. It also has a lower floor than many sport utility vehicles at 27 inches off the ground, which is easier for some dogs to climb into.

The Hyundai Santa Fe has enough cargo space for some larger breeds. The ride and handling were also good, AAA said.

Under the category of “Kids, Dogs and Everything Else,” AAA recommends the Honda Element or the Toyota Venza.

The interior of the Honda Element can be hosed out when needed. The Element offers many accessories for pet owners including a ramp that allows older dogs to get in and out of the vehicle and a soft-sided kennel.

The Mazda3 5-Door and the Mini Clubman are AAA’s picks for “efficient and fun” cars. Both cars offer wide-opening doors.

The Ford Escape Hybrid is AAA’s top green dog-friendly car. Ford says the the battery is completely sealed and safe for wet dogs and cargo.

AAA picked the Kia Soul and the Nissan Cube as its top economical cars. But the Cube does not have a flat floor when the rear seat is folded. AAA recommends using padding to level the floor.

For more information on traveling with pets, AAA offers “Traveling with Your Pet: The AAA PetBook” in its offices. The book includes tips for traveling with pets and listings of pet-friendly hotels and motels.
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