How do you get people to stop leaving their dogs in hot cars? Even the cops can’t seem to get it right; there have been at least four confirmed cases of K9 officers dying because their handlers left them in the car this summer alone.
Austin chiropractor Mary Traverse seems to have hit on one possible solution. She bought a big yellow van that’s normally used for hauling cars, installed air conditioning and colorful cages inside, and started a new business: The Barking Garage.
Traverse has gotten permission from Austin’s Gateway Shopping Center to install The Barking Garage in their parking lot. For a fee ranging from $10 to 14 per hour, depending on the size of the dog, she’ll watch your pup while you’re inside the mall looking at clothes or electronic gizmos.
This is still a very new venture, still working at finding its feet and making people aware of its existence. The Barking Garage operates only on Saturdays and Sundays, and this past weekend was Traverse’s second. On Facebook, she wrote, “Things are looking UP—at the end of our second weekend, we have had 3 (!) customers!”
The idea came about because it was the sort of thing that she herself needed. Traverse lives more than 40 miles outside of Austin, but has to come into the city frequently to run errands. “I love to have my dogs with me, but I just can’t stand it. I can’t even run into the grocery store,” she told local television station KVUE. “A lot of times, I make a special trip back into town on a Saturday to run my errands just because my dogs would be safe.”
Thus was born The Barking Garage. It took her a couple of years to work through the logistics to make it a reality. With only three customers, it remains to be seen whether or not The Barking Garage will succeed, but one thing is certain: Its very existence makes a statement about the problem. When even trained handlers are leaving their dogs behind, it’s obvious that the status quo just isn’t working. Some kind of alternative to leaving dogs in hot cars is needed. Beyond a few dog parks and other facilities, most cities just aren’t that friendly to dogs in general.
The Barking Garage might be the solution that’s needed, or at least one of them.
So far, the responses to the idea have been positive. As Traverse points out, it’s good for the local businesses because they hate having to call the cops on their own customers.
WVUE interviewed one dog owner named Gary Biggers who had come shopping without his pet. Biggers was enthusiastic about the idea: “It makes life so much easier. I don’t know what’s in [the car hauler], but I know its cool,” he said. “Huskies are hot in the summer, especially here, so I think that’s a great idea, and I want to see more of those pop up…To save your pet’s life, just to put him in there while you’re shopping…because before you know it, 45 minutes go by and poor Fido is in the car.”
Here’s hoping that The Barking Garage gets more than three customers next weekend, and that more owners become aware of the risks of leaving their dog in the car.
Read more about dogs on Dogster: