This week on All My Children Wear Fur Coats, we had the pleasure of speaking with Lindsey Wolko, founder of the Center for Pet Safety. The story of The Center for Pet Safety continues to serve as a reminder that pet safety is essential. It underscores the significance of recognizing the importance of pet safety, being informed about proper pet safety measures, and taking necessary steps to protect our pets during travel.Support the show
Welcome to All My Children
Wear Fur Coats with Peggy Hoyt.
Our goal is to keep loved pets in loving
homes by educating pet parents about the importance of
ensuring every pet has a forever home.
For more information about creating a legacy for
your pet or to listen to archive shows,
visit animalcaretrustusa.org or legacyforyourpet.com.
Join your host, author, estate planning
attorney and animal advocate, Peggy Hoyt.
Hello, pet lovers.
Welcome to All My Children Wear Fur Coats.
I'm your host, Peggy Hoyt.
This show is brought to you by the
law offices of Hoyt and Brian, where we
create estate plans for pets and their people.
Also brought to you by Animal Care
Trust USA, a national nonprofit dedicated to
keeping loved pets in loving homes.
We do this by educating pet parents about the importance
of getting a pet trust for their loved pet.
We also provide trustee services, and today it is
our absolute pleasure to introduce you to our guest.
Her name is Lindsey Wolko and she is
the founder of the Center for Pet Safety.
Welcome, Lindsey. Hey, Peggy.
Thank you for having me.
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So I'm looking forward to learning all about
this, but I would like to tell our
listeners a little bit about you.
So, Lindsey is a long term pet safety advocate.
She leads a mission that is personal to every pet
owner with a keen understanding of the pet industry.
She authors safety standards for pet products,
independently certifies pet products, counsels pet product
manufacturers around the globe, and works tirelessly
for consumer and companion animal safety.
Lindsey has a background in project program management
as well as governance and controls development.
She holds a bachelor's degree from George Mason
University and she currently leads the research division
of the Center for Pet Safety.
That's a mouthful, but oh my gosh, this is
such an important topic, the safety of our pets.
Yeah, it's amazing to me.
We talk to pet owners on a regular basis
and one of the things we tell them is
like, the pet industry is so highly unregulated.
They think that products have to go
through testing and meet safety standards and
nothing could be further from the truth.
It's really the Wild West.
So that's where we come in and we're
working to improve the safety of the pet
products and protect pet owners and their pets.
So because we think of our pets as
being like our children in some instances.
I guess that's where we get the idea that
anything that we might buy for our pets has
already been approved or tested by somebody.
That is correct.
A lot of people correlate the pet industry with
the children's industries, but they are completely separate.
There are federal regulations for children's
products, but there are no regulations,
largely no regulations for pet products.
Well, and I think we all have at least one story,
probably about a product that we purchased for a pet that
turned out to be unsafe in one way, shape, or form.
I'm thinking of a stuffed animal that I bought for my
dogs and for anybody out there who has a dachshund.
They probably know that dachshunds destroy
everything, and if it comes with
a squeaker, it is destroyed instantly.
But this particular toy not only had a squeaker,
but it had things that it was stuffed with
that you wouldn't want anywhere near any living being.
So that kind of put the onus on
me to say, I got to be really
careful about what I'm bringing into my household. Yeah.
And we get reports from all around the globe
when pet owners have an incident with a product,
we do get a lot of toy reports coming
in, but, yeah, it's frightening when we get the
same stories over and over and over again.
I never knew this could happen.
And the stories we get back about how the
manufacturers themselves are managing problematic issues and reports is
very concerning to us on many, many levels.
So it is challenging.
Okay, so you have obviously dedicated your life's work to this,
but I need to know, how did you get started and
what prompted you to found the center for pet safety?
So back in around 2004 or
so, I adopted this dog, Maggie. She was English.
I had her brother and she came to live with me.
I also had another dog, and I didn't have
enough room in my car for three crates.
So Maggie was kind of wandering around the car
all the time while I was driving between my
home and McLean and I stopped by.
I knew it was unsafe because I was paying more
attention to where she was on the road when I
was on the road with her than I was paying
attention to what was going on in front of me.
So I stopped by the local big box
pet store, picked up a safety harness.
On the safety harness, it said it would protect me and
it would protect her if we were in a crash.
So I said, I'm a good pet owner.
I'm doing the right thing. Yay.
We got her trained for it.
It was all good.
And then I had to slam on the brakes to avoid
a crash one morning, and all I heard was screaming.
So it was a horrific incident.
The only thing that kept Maggie from breaking her
neck was the fact that she got tangled in
this contraption, and it prevented her from hitting the
back of the front seat head first.
But she did have strained hips and strained spine and
was on limited mobility for a while and painkillers.
And I sat down and I thought this was
such a traumatic incident and so dangerous, too, that
a few months later, I decided I wanted to
run a pilot study on safety harnesses.
So I paid for that out of my own pocket.
We sampled, I don't know, twelve or 15
different harnesses, picked the ones that either had
marketing, they said that they were crash tested,
or they looked to be the strongest.
We engaged a bunch of engineers and said, which
ones would we test as a control group?
And we ended up having a 100% failure rate when we
put these things through their paces in a crash test.
So it really was very eye opening.
And even the techs at the lab were absolutely
blown away that manufacturers could market things as crash
tested, but not have a safety standard, defined and
goals that the product needs to meet.
So that's how we got started, and
it's kind of gone crazy since then.
Well, that is a sad start, of course, that your
dog got hurt in an accident, but it was very
propitious that that happened at that time because it set
you up for helping all of these other pet owners.
And I noticed on your website, and I
want folks to know you can go to
the centerforpetsafety.org, that one of your mottos is,
don't buy things that are not CPS certified.
And so I think that's going to be
a good lesson for a lot of us.
Do you know off the top of your
head how many items you have certified?
I'd have to go look at our website now.
You've got to understand that if you look at
the child seat industry, they started many years ago.
They used to have harnesses for children to
wear so they could toddle around the back
seat, but they don't have those anymore.
So we're kind of at that stage
right now in the pet industry.
We're bringing scientific examination to the forefront and
trying to get more pet manufacturers, pet product
manufacturers, and even those that are outside of
that industry that are manufacturing pet products.
We've got luggage companies, we've got
engineering companies, all these people that
are working to improve safety.
But we're having to educate everyone on what
makes a pet travel product the safest.
And we want to protect you, the driver, your
passengers, and then give your pet the best possible
chance of survival if you are in a crash.
So that's why there aren't that many brands that are
certified right now, because we've done over 300 some odd
crash tests, and the majority of them fail. Oh, my gosh.
Well, and I notice you have specific areas
on your website for harnesses crates and carriers.
There's also recall information, which I think is great, or
advisory information that pet owners can look to as well
as you have your whole test results area. Yeah.
And pet owners really want to focus in
on the upper left hand side of the
website, and it's called CPS Certified.
We are in the process of developing a new site.
We should have that live over the next few months.
But the CPS Certified, those are
the products that have passed testing.
And those are the ones where if a brand goes
through the effort and they sign up for this program,
there's an oversight component to this so that we do
regular check ins, we talk to the brands.
They have to recertify.
They have to notify us that they make changes
to their product just so that we can continue
ensuring that those products are as safe as possible.
Thank you for doing that, by the way.
I really appreciate it.
As a dog owner of six dogs and four horses
and two cats, we're not specifically talking about horses today.
But obviously there's a lot related to horse safety
as well because we're asking horses to get in
boxes on four wheels and ride down the highway.
Yeah, when we first started out, we had a
lot of the equine industry reach out to us
to say, hey, we need to start doing testing.
We want to understand the loads that the horses
go through when they're traveling in these things.
Where I live, I'm out in horse country in Virginia.
And so we've got some phenomenal resources.
I have been out to talk to some of them,
but we just need the funding for those programs.
And if we have the funding in
place, we can absolutely do those studies
to get that information to the manufacturers.
That's really great.
There's so much I want to ask you about.
I almost don't know where to go here because it
isn't just about traveling down the highway with our pets.
There's so many other ways that safety comes into play.
And you're in Virginia and I'm in Florida, but
we are approaching summer all over the United States.
And summer is a very dangerous time for
animals for a lot of reasons, not the
least of which is dogs and vehicles.
Do you want to talk about that? Yeah.
Hot cars kill.
And we tell pet owners that all the time.
It's like never ever leave your dog or your
cat or any pet or child in your vehicle.
If you have to walk away from that
vehicle, that pet needs to come with you.
Or you just leave them at home.
If they cannot come with you, leave
them in an air conditioned environment.
They will be fine.
A lot of people feel their pets need to
come with them everywhere during the summer months.
It is critical that they stay
in an air conditioned environment. Agree.
And I'm not a spokesperson for Tesla, but one of
the things that I like about the Tesla vehicles and
I don't own one is that little message that you
can set the car to dog mode and it will.
Keep the air conditioning running.
And it places an announcement on the computer screen
so that if someone looks in, it says what
the temperature in the car is and that my
pet owner will be right back.
Yeah, but we worry about some of those technologies.
They are imperfect.
And so we have not tested dog mode from Tesla.
We have reached out to Tesla, but at
the end of the day, they're new technologies,
and those technologies sometimes have challenges.
So I would hate for any pet owner to rely
on something that's new and innovative and then for them
to come out to their car thinking that their dog's
fine and unfortunately, they're not find that they're not, right?
Well, and of course, in Florida, we do hear horror stories
all the time about children left in cars, hot cars, much
more than I mean, the pets don't tend to make the
news like the kids do, but that is a big one,
and certainly that's right around the corner for us.
Other things, I don't know if you address these or
not, but what about, like, fireworks on 4 July?
Is that involved in fireworks are
very frightening to some pets.
If you go out to any event or you're
going to be in a neighborhood where they're doing
fireworks, if you take your pet outside, you want
to make sure that they are on a leash.
We recommend that you leave them again in an
air conditioned environment, especially during the summer months.
But you can turn the television on loud.
You can give them, put them in their
crate so that you know they're safe.
Contain your cats.
Make sure that they're not a flight risk.
I like to have two doors
between the outside and my pets.
So it's one of those things you just need
to use a high level of safety precautions.
And I have a dog who's terrified of thunder
and fireworks, and he's like, hold me, hold me
when we start getting loud noises, and we turn
up the volume on the television.
And it really does help kind
of minimize the distraction level.
But I think with the thunderstorms and things,
they can actually feel the electricity in the
air, so it doesn't really help for those.
But the fireworks, it definitely does. Yeah.
I have to say that I noticed when one of my
little dogs got older and lost her hearing, that it was
kind of a blessing in disguise for thunderstorms and fireworks.
Yeah, it is a frightening time for them.
And plus a lot of people that had military
service as well, they have PTSD, and that can
raise all sorts of problems for them.
So just be kind to your neighbors and
make sure it's not going to bother anyone.
The other thing, and you may have resources for
this, but in Florida, of course, we have hurricanes,
and our hurricane season is pretty long.
And so having to evacuate with your pets, whether
it's for a hurricane or any other kind of
natural disaster, what can you tell us about that?
Well, if you come to our website,
you can sign up right now.
If you sign up for the newsletter, and I think we
also have it as a resource on another page, but you
can get a copy of our disaster preparedness guide.
So we actually have checklists in there
that you need to be prepared.
We have guides on first aid kits.
We have all sorts of information, but we
also have things that you can print out.
So if you do have to evacuate, you can make
the first responders jobs a lot easier by posting something
on your front door so they know that there are
no pets, there are no people inside.
So there's a lot of things that you need to
be aware of if you are in an area that
is frequented by troublesome storms, whether that be hurricanes or
snowstorms or whatever, but just be aware that we do
have some resources available for you.
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Well, it looks like you have a ton of
resources actually, on your website where I can see
me going down a rabbit hole here for sure.
We'll hopefully make it a lot
easier with our new website.
We're trying to streamline it because there
is so much information in there.
Well, it's all good information.
I'm looking at your frequently asked questions.
And so you have the certification for kennels and
travel products, those kinds of things for dogs.
I probably am an offender when it comes to that because
I just mentioned to you earlier that I was traveling this
week with six dogs in my vehicle, none of whom were
in a crate or tethered in any way, shape, or form.
Yeah, that can be a little challenging.
And you have to train them
all to acclimate to products.
So we do recommend an acclimation process, but the
more you know, the better you do so.
It's one of those things.
We do get reports of unfortunate incidents
where pets are ejected from vehicles.
You never know when that crash is coming.
I don't want to be all doom and gloom, but
you really do have to prepare for unfortunate incident.
That's why we have passenger safety devices
and vehicles like seatbelts and child seats.
They have to meet certain requirements.
And like I said, these products will give
your pet the best possible chance of survival
if you do get into an unfortunate incident.
Okay, well, I will be definitely researching that.
I also like some of your tips for traveling with pets.
First and foremost is make sure they're
up to date with their vaccinations and
flea and tick and heartworm treatments.
I think that almost goes without saying. Yeah.
We want pet owners to be aware, and then some
jurisdictions do have certain requirements, and so you want to
make sure that you research and if you're traveling with
your pets, we also have links to resources where you
can find emergency veterinary clinics or other vets in case
you need them in your destination location.
That's something pet owners really
don't think about too much. That is true.
We don't really think about that because we think that
everybody's going to be healthy and that we'll be back
in our own environment with our own veterinarians.
But yes, that's very important and
thank you for that resource.
One of the other suggestions is to
make sure your pets are microchipped.
That way, if you do get separated, there's
a way to reunite you with your pet.
Yeah, and that's something that is very
important, especially when you travel or when
you're out and about with your pet.
Pet owners don't think about pet theft,
and that is on the rise, especially
for smaller dogs that are easily concealed.
So you just want to be very cautious.
Always microchip your pet.
They will typically do that during your, you know,
if you take them in for a spay. Neuter.
You know, I brought a new puppy home recently and she
was microchip before I picked her up at the airport.
Very responsible breeder there.
I always have to laugh because my dogs are funny.
I don't feed them before we leave on a trip
because I don't want anybody to have a tummy upset.
But they do like to have little snacks or treats
along the way and of course, offering them water.
But they're really funny about drinking water
when we're in the vehicle, they tend
to turn their nose up at it.
We typically recommend against feeding or watering
while you are in active travel mode.
So if you are actively driving and if you stop
and take a break, pull over to one of the
rest stops or to an outside area like a shopping
mall or something, just to kind of stretch your legs
and let your dogs relieve themselves outside that point.
That would be a safer place to feed
and treat them and offer them water.
We're concerned when you're traveling that they could
choke on something, and that becomes a distraction.
And that's one of the reasons we don't recommend
that you bring toys and give them toys or
chew toys or anything while you're traveling.
While it may seem like a good idea,
they can become choking hazards, and that distracts
you from driving, and it's better to wait
until you're at a stationary location.
Well, and I automatically don't give them treats or toys
in the car just because with six traveling with six
dogs, more than choking, I have a fighting hazard.
Yeah, that happens, too.
They always get a little grumpy if somebody gets
in a little too close into their space, too.
It's almost like kids saying, mom, she's touching me.
My dachshund, in particular, gets a little grumpy if
people get into her space a little too much.
But I like the idea, too, of bringing the
medical records, lists of medications, making sure that they
do also have callers with name tags.
Everything you can do helps a little, right? Yeah.
And we have those resources for the medical records.
We have things that you can print out to help
compile them and just carry something in your wallet even,
so that if you need to reference it, you can.
So we try to make it as small
and compact as possible, so hopefully it'll be
a helpful resource for your listeners.
Well, and I hate talking about doom and gloom,
like you said, but one of the things that
I promote as well is making sure that we
include our pets as part of our estate plan.
So God forbid something would happen on a trip
and something would happen to the pet parent.
You do want to have those identification cards in your
wallet so somebody would know who to call to come
get the pets as a short term or a long
term pet caregiver, and then in the off chance that
the pet parent actually dies, having then that long term
care plan for the pets.
Yeah, that's something that I'm personally
currently working on for mine.
I already have emergency contacts set up, so if
I land in the hospital for any reason, one
phone call sets everything in motion, and that way
we have coverage for the dogs.
I have family members that have been notified.
I have my vet has been notified on who is allowed
to make certain requests on behalf of me for my pets.
So we've got all those things in place, but now
I have to put together the trust to ensure that
if something does happen to me, that the financial responsibilities
are carried through my estate very important.
So thank you for doing that as well.
All right, so you are a nonprofit organization? We are.
We're a 501c3.
And so we do research, we do advocacy, and
we educate so it's a big undertaking and we're
just trying right now to keep things moving forward
and it is a big undertaking.
So tell our listeners how they can help.
Lindsey well, with the pandemic and
everything so donations have slowed, definitely.
If you can afford a donation to Center
for Pet Safety, it is tax deductible.
Check with your tax advisor.
But we are a 501c3 nonprofit organization.
You can also help by spreading
the word about the mission. Right.
So most pet owners don't even know that we exist.
And we had enormous amount of coverage in
2013 and 15 thanks to Subaru of America.
They sponsored some of our early research and we
were able to reach out across the globe.
That's how people all around the world know about us.
But it's just the majority of pet owners,
really, they have no idea we even exist.
I have to admit I didn't.
And I was very excited to learn about your organization
and to be able to share it with our listeners.
And of course, if they want more information, they
can visit the Act4pets.org website and find the blog
that we're going to do on you.
They can go to your website at centerforpetsafety.org and I think
this will be a really good marriage of two
organizations that have as their mission keeping pets safe.
I think it sounds like a great opportunity to
spread the word and just make sure pet owners
understand the resources that are out there to support
them on their pet owning journey. Absolutely.
Thank you so much. Lindsay.
So what would you leave us with today?
I would say let's focus on it is spring travel.
Right now, everybody's hopping in
the car and traveling.
So if you have pets, please restrain or contain them.
Go to centerforpetsafety.org.
You can find the CPS certified tab and you can
see all of the products that have passed testing.
Those will give your pets the best possible chance of
survival if you are in a crash or a sudden
stop and that'll help protect you and your passengers too.
Thank you so much.
We really appreciate you.
And to our listeners, we appreciate you as well,
and we hope you'll join us next time.
And you know my motto until
there are none, please adopt one.
And till later, happy tale.
Thank you for joining us on All My Children.
Wear fur coats with your host, Peggy Hoyt.
We hope you learned something valuable
for the benefit of your pet.
We want to keep loved pets in loving
homes by educating pet parents about the importance
of ensuring every pet has a forever home.
Get more information about creating a
legacy for your pet at animalcaretrustusa.org or legacyforyouryourpet.com.
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