Madison graduate invents Doggy Seatbelt
In 2008, Melissa Ramirez's husband, Joe Hubeny, was driving with the couple's dog, a miniature pinscher named Max, and his car was struck from the side. The airbags inflated and Hubeny, who was wearing a seatbelt, was OK. However, Max was thrown across the car and suffered a spinal cord injury that paralyzed his back legs. The couple was devastated.
After four hours of surgery, six months of rehabilitation and $10,000 in veterinarian bills, Max was able to walk again and Ramirez was determined to keep her beloved pooch safe in the car just like she would a child.
"I went shopping, fully expecting a range of small dog seatbelt options, but what I found was disappointing. Bulky harnesses that had to fit over Max's harness. A lack of quality assurance. Glued and plastic parts that seemed like they'd melt in a hot car or break down with use. And nothing specially made for small dogs," says Ramirez.
Ramirez, who graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, decided to create her own seatbelt made specifically for small dogs. Recently, she started a company, Zerimax, and introduced Doggie Seatbelt, a safety belt for dogs who are 25 pounds or lighter.
Doggie Seatbelt is made from 100 percent polypropylene webbing. It connects to the backseat belt and is used with a snug-fitting harness, not a neck collar. It is simple and easy to use. The cost is $25.
Milwaukee's Erin Deft was in a car accident with her springer spaniel, Daisy, about a year ago. Daisy suffered a broken leg in the crash. "I have not brought my dog in the car since the accident, but I would totally travel with her again with one of these seat belts," she says. "If she could handle being restrained in the car."
It usually takes a few car trips before the dog is completely comfortable with the belt, but eventually, most dogs will adapt. It can be used in conjunction with a soft dog bed which is comforting to some canines.
Hyper or higher strung dogs might resist the belt at first, in which case Ramirez recommends Rescue Remedy, a homeopathic remedy from Bach Flower Essences that can be used for an immediate calming effect in any stressful situation.
"It's basically a natural Valium that will help you and your dog ease into this new driving arrangement," says Ramirez.
Nearly 25 percent of caregivers now take pets with them in the car when traveling for at least two nights, according to the American Pet Products Association. This is compared with 16 percent a decade ago.
The benefits of the Doggie Seatbelt include, of course, restraint in the case of an accident, but it's also intended to minimize driver distraction which can contribute to an accident. A recent AAA survey shows that more than half of drivers engage in distracting behavior with dogs while driving, such as petting. One-fifth of all caregivers let dogs sit on their lap. Doggie Seatbelt also prevents dogs from jumping out windows.
Doggie Seatbelt is currently available online. The small business is based in Chicago, but within the next few months, the product will be available in Milwaukee pet stores. Anyone not satisfied with the belt can return it for a full refund.
"My goal was to not only provide my own small dog with a quality safety belt, but also to share my story and raise awareness about the dangers of traveling with a dog loose in a vehicle. And so that no one else has to go through what Max did," says Ramirez.
she does call out in the body of the article that it was a unique design for small dogs. You need something catchy on the headlines, which I think most people get.
Saying that she 'invented the Doggy Seatbelt' is rather misleading. That would be like me coming up with a different recipe for brownies and saying I invented The Brownie. Or Al Gore saying he invented the Internet, for that matter. Perhaps a journalism course is due for Ms. Snyder.
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