They don't let the dogs drive, but throughout the country, pet-friendly car dealerships are doing cool things for four-legged friends. One opened a dog park. Others are sponsoring pet adoptions. More still are donating cash and vehicles to animal shelters. One dealer group even encourages its employees to bring their dogs to work. Here are a few dealerships that stand out.
A Van for Vet Trips
Unlike most animal shelters, Journey's End Animal Sanctuary in DeLand, Florida, isn't looking to find new homes for its resident dogs, cats, sheep, pigs, birds and horses. Instead, it is a final home for animals that have been abused, are disabled or need special attention. Because the animals don't move on to new homes, the sanctuary handles veterinarian trips. And when the vehicle it used for the vet trips began to fail, Journey's End reached out to several local car dealerships looking for help. The only dealer to respond was Coggin DeLand Hyundai.
"One day I came in to work, and there was a handwritten note on my desk from the owner of the sanctuary, asking for a bit of help," says Cory Dean, general manager of Coggin DeLand Hyundai. "I called her the next day, and told her we were going to donate one of our shuttle vans to her sanctuary. She was absolutely thrilled."
Before giving the nonprofit animal sanctuary a 2007 Hyundai Entourage, Coggin DeLand Hyundai had the vehicle serviced and reconditioned. "We wanted it to be in tip-top shape," Dean says. The dealership paid the taxes on the vehicle as well.
Park Your Dogs Here
Dogs have a place to call their own at Frank Kent Cadillac: a 1.5-acre dealership-owned park, complete with a creek to splash in. The dog park opened in 2013 and has quickly become a favorite of customers visiting the dealership for service.
"We have so many guests who bring their dogs to our Cadillac store that we wanted a place for pets to stretch their paws as their parents waited for their vehicle to be serviced," says Corrie Churchill, co-owner of Frank Kent Cadillac. To keep the dealership-maintained dog park from becoming congested, the dealership limits the use of the dog park to the dealership's guests.
"We want our four-legged guests to have a great time and it not be too crowded," says Churchill.
Helping Shelter Animals Get Adopted
Pity the Florida brown dog. It's not actually a breed, but a name put to any large, mixed-breed brown dog that hangs out in the Sunshine State. Homeless Florida brown dogs have found a champion in Reed Nissan. The Orlando, Florida, dealership features the dogs in its commercials and encourages people to adopt them.
Reed Nissan is a strong supporter of the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando, one of the largest animal welfare agencies in Florida. Nearly 10,000 animals come through the doors of the agency's two locations per year. To help combat the hot Florida sun and let dogs have more comfortable time outside, the dealership paid to install sunshades at the shelter's outside dog run. Overall, the dealership estimates that it donated upward of $150,000 to the shelter in the past year.
That Reed Nissan features big dogs such as the Florida browns in its commercials is no accident. Larger, older dogs are less likely to be adopted than smaller dogs or puppies. The hope is that wider exposure will help the big dogs find permanent homes more quickly.
"When a Florida brown dog makes it to a shelter, chances are it will be at the pound for a long time," says Aaron Hill, Reed Nissan's general manager. "Florida browns make up a big part of the shelter dog population."
Florida brown dogs often have some pit bull in them. And that can pose a problem for adoption.
"People get scared when they hear 'pit,' and Florida browns are one of the top dogs put down if not adopted quickly," Hill says.
One of the dealership's goals is to help get as many of the larger dogs adopted as possible so that the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando can use the space to take in dogs from other shelters. Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando is a no-kill shelter, but not all of the shelters in the area are. When space becomes available at Pet Alliance, the shelter looks to take dogs that might otherwise be put to sleep.
To further help adoption efforts, Reed Nissan recently joined with the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando for a one-day pet adoption event, which it held on the dealership's showroom floor. The shelter brought 100 dogs and cats, and by the end of the day, 98 had been adopted. The dealership paid all the adoption fees. And with its end-of-year adopt-a-thon, the dealership helped place 1,800 dogs and cats in permanent homes.
Bring Your Dog to Work — Every Day
When the doors open for work at the 16 franchises of the Friendship Family of Dealerships auto group in Tennessee, it's not only people who walk into the showroom. The group encourages its employees to bring their dogs to work, too.
"We used to have an occasional 'bring your pet to work' day, and many employees would bring in their dogs," says Pamela Regan, human resources manager for the Friendly auto group. "One day, the owner, Mitch Walters, who is a dog lover himself, said, 'Let's just make this an everyday thing.'"
The employees who bring dogs in to work also bring leashes for the canines. The leashes don't see much use, however, and are only used to walk the dogs outside for potty breaks. While in the dealerships, the dogs are free to roam. "Most of the dogs are inside dogs, and it's easy to see that they know because they know how to act inside," says Regan.
When a salesperson goes on a test-drive, the dog stays behind. However, the dog is certain to never be alone, Regan says. "There is always somebody in the showroom more than willing to keep an eye on the dog."
Both customers and employees enjoy having the dogs at the dealership, according to Regan. And now, because the employees' dogs are a regular sight at the dealership, she says customers have begun to bring in their own pooches when they're getting service or shopping for a car.
"People think it's great for us, being able to bring our dogs to work," she says. "But it's also great for the dog, not having to be cooped up alone at home all day."
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