Happy Trails for Furry Tails
Many pet parents are hitting the road and jet setting with their furry loved ones in tow, yet only manufacturers and retailers that meet their travel needs will be invited along for the ride.
A growing number of pet parents are bypassing the pet hotel or daycare in favor of traveling with a furry loved one. While consumers often research products to ensure the safety of their beloved animals during travel, they need both products and guidance from manufacturers and retailers to avoid dangers on the road and adhere to constantly changing air-travel regulations.
Flying the Eco-friendly Skies
Matching the demand for sustainably sourced products with the role of pets as family members, some manufacturers are adhering to sustainable practices without compromising comfort and style. A veteran of the handbag and pet carrier industry, Bark n Bag owner David Fine sought to create a fashionable product that is responsibly made.
“It was our mission when we started 10 years ago,” he says. “Our first carriers were made of recycled materials and the first on the market to do this. We try to keep our price stabilized. We could use nylon at half the price of recycled nylon but that strays from our mission.”
Using organic cotton and bamboo, Bark n Bag also created the industry’s first organic carrier when it introduced its Organic Denim Carrier.
Regarding the groundbreaking carrier, Fine says, “It was developed in conjunction with my former business partner who had a handbag line: Make Love Not Trash. We tried to move that fashion concept into pets. It is probably the lightest on the market using bamboo rather than fiberglass.”
By setting out to create carriers that pet parents want to be seen carrying and using materials they can feel good about buying, Fine bypassed wasteful manufacturing practices and proved that style can be sustainable.
A Renewable Manufacturing History
Billed as the largest manufacturer of carriers, kennels, shelters, and feeding and watering products in the United States, Petmate also remains a model of sustainability in the industry. Launched in 1963, Petmate sources the majority of its plastics from a facility that processes 40 to 80 million pounds of plastic waste annually.
“We purchase post-industrial, pre-consumer, recyclable materials to reduce our carbon footprint and keep millions of pounds of plastic out of landfills,” says senior marketing manager Emilye Schmale. “We also utilize eco-friendly manufacturing techniques to ensure that our pets and their families have a beautiful world to play in. We are extremely proud that our manufacturing facility has been given the Edison Green Award.”
Through its products, such as the Navigator Kennel with Microban and Grow with Me Divider, and Vari Kennel, Petmate encourages consumers to waste less and remain loyal to the brand.
“Our kennels and carriers are best known for their unique attributes like 360-degree ventilation, two-way opening doors and adjustable grow-with-me dividers to enable the carrier to grow with the pet from puppyhood to adulthood,” says Schmale.
The antimicrobial properties of Microban thwart bacteria, fungi, mold and mildew growth, keeping the kennel clean and free of harmful organisms, and allowing pets to remain healthy and extending the life of the product.
Pet Safety Partnering
Since 1990, Worldwise has focused on pet safety, supported by sustainable manufacturing practices and stylish designs. Building upon this foundation, the company grew in May 2015 after welcoming Sherpa to its family. Sherpa’s reputation was built upon secure and reliable products, a legacy that Worldwise wants to cultivate, according to CEO Kevin Fick.
“Our product development and sourcing teams have been researching the eco-friendly materials that will allow us to incorporate environmental benefits into our carrier line without sacrificing the safety and quality that Sherpa is known for,” he says.
Neil Werde, managing director of canine supplies, explains that Sherpa was in fact the first carrier to be acknowledged by the airline industry as meeting all Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements, and Worldwise has continued to stay on top of airline standards and regulations, keeping these guidelines in mind when designing new carriers. The company also developed its Guaranteed On-Board (GOB) Program to ease the process of finding the right pet carrier by guaranteeing its products meet all airline specifications.
"The GOB program, launched in 2009, matches up each airline’s different pet travel requirements with the specifics of the pet and the particular flight they are planning," he says. "Once all documents are submitted, reviewed and approved for accuracy and compliance, our Guaranteed-On-Board program gives the pet parent traveler the peace of mind and reassurance that their flight will be as stress-free as possible. We guarantee it."
Car travel is also a priority for the company. Recognizing the hazards of driving with pets that are not secured, adds Werde, Worldwise is hoping legislation will soon include requirements for safe auto travel with animals, similar to those enforced for children.
“In order to make car transport even safer, we created the Sherpa Safety Suite that makes it easier to transport a pet inside a carrier and features the added security of securing into the car’s LATCH system which is also used for children’s car seats,” he says.
International Pet Jet Set
Offering carriers in an array of sizes to suit different travel needs, Italian manufacturer Marchioro creates products that accommodate the smallest puppies or kittens to larger dogs, up to 221 pounds. It also sells accessories, including wheels, shoulder straps and bowls, to make pet travel easier for consumers. Since 1957, the business has offered sturdy, affordable pet products, such as the brand’s Argo model, which was inspired by employees’ own automobile pet transportation needs.
“We needed a car transport box for our own pets...with the features and benefits that we demanded,” says Brad Forgette, executive vice president. “From the locking wheels to the easy-clean relief valve we packed the car transport box with features.”
Providing security and comfort to the smallest pets, the family-owned company also designed the convenient Binny Top carrier, explains Forgette. “[The] Binny Top concept was developed for those customers who had small pets but needed storage without sacrificing style or quality,” he says.
The carrier includes an attached small water bowl, carrying handle, shoulder strap and grill floor to ensure pets remain dry during travel.
Mobile Pet Home
Remaining true to the heritage of its trusted products and improving through innovation, MidWest Homes for Pets has provided solutions to pet parents for more than 90 years. The kennel and crate manufacturer’s plastic Skudo and Spree carriers are easily assembled, yet they provide comfortable security to pets.
“For ultimate comfort, MidWest also sells plastic carrier beds designed to fit each size of our Skudo Travel Carriers,” reveals Tara Whitehead, marketing manager. “The beds feature exquisitely-soft, dreamy fleece, comfortable bolsters, and they are machine washable.”
Though MidWest Homes for Pets is a seasoned veteran of the pet containment market, Whitehead is aware of the challenges facing carrier manufacturers today. “Some manufacturers, old and new, [are] bringing to market product that is lower priced but deficient in quality,” she says. “That means leading manufacturers must work effectively to communicate the virtues of their product and values of their company to both the consumer base and the retailers who sell the product.”
This emphasis on quality is no surprise, considering the brand’s longevity, and Whitehead knows that creating a top product is not enough. She also recognizes the demands from today’s pet parents include establishing a rapport with the brands on which their money will be spent, noting “With this awareness comes a responsibility to be responsive to customer questions and customer needs,” she says.
Safe and Sound Travels
Using innovative designs, Sleepypod co-founder and lead product designer Michael Leung recognized and addressed a specific corner of the pet-carrier market that he felt had not yet been covered when he launched Sleepypod in 2005.
“The need for pet carriers that double as pet beds inspired us to design the mobile pet bed and launch Sleepypod,” he says. “We have added safe car-seat functionality to our carriers and in-cabin air travel carriers.”
Addressing pet anxiety, Sleepypod serves as a carrier during travel and a pet bed in the home. By allowing pets to become comfortable in this space that serves as a sanctuary in the house, they are more likely to remain calm when the carrier is transferred to an airplane or vehicle.
“Automobile safety is important not only for pet safety but also human occupant safety. A loose pet endangers everyone in the vehicle,” emphasizes Leung.
Sleepypod’s emphasis on pet automobile safety has not gone unnoticed. Last year, the company received the Center for Pet Safety’s 2015 Top Performer award for its Mobile Pet Bed with PPRS Handilock.
Jet-setting pet parents can be assured that Sleepypod also addresses their needs. The Sleepypod Air’s size can be reduced by folding the ends, affording greater flexibility for adhering to different airline regulations.
As new industry and legislative safety guidelines are implemented to keep pets safe, manufacturers and retailers must work together to deliver resilient, comfortable products that withstand accidents and adhere to regulations.