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Off Leash: A Brand New Car'With a Secret Message Inside

Car buyers find more than an owner’s manual in the glove box

Car buyers find more than an owner’s manual in the glove box

Of all the sales pitches you’re likely to encounter at a car dealership, an ad for responsible pet ownership isn’t one of them. But in Whatcom County, Washington, new car buyers who open their glove compartment to find out how to operate the windshield wipers are also treated to advice on how not to treat their animals.

“Danger! A few minutes in a hot car could kill your pet!” reads a red and black card placed in the glove compartments of all the vehicles sold at 12 area dealerships.

“Danger! Transporting your dog without proper restraints can be deadly!” reads another card that’s placed in the glove compartments of all pickup trucks sold by those businesses.

Created pro bono by a graphic designer, the messages from the Whatcom Humane Society reach a captive audience of thousands of local citizens. Some dealers go through 200 to 300 cards a month, says Penny Cistaro, executive director of the Bellingham shelter.

The Northwest isn’t known for sweltering temperatures, but that’s all the more reason to promote the hot-car message, says Cistaro. “People are kind of lulled into this idea that well, it’s only in the 70s. But then if you roll up your windows when it’s 78 degrees out, it can get up into the 90s in your car in nothing flat,” she says. “So we get a lot of calls at peak times of the year.”

To send her message into the mainstream, all Cistaro had to do was ask. “I sent the dealers a letter and told them I wasn’t asking them for money,” she says.

But that might change. While donors paid for the first printing of 16,000, Cistaro plans to ask the car dealers themselves to help pay for the next batch.

“It’s a way of getting the community involved because the message is coming from the dealer,” she says, “so the dealer is showing support of the organization as well.”


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