Can the Variocage Face Forward in a Vehicle and Still be Safe?

We recently had a pet parent contact us with a unique situation.

They had a Chevy Tahoe, and would be traveling to Alaska from New England with two German shepherds. They expected to be towing gear AND there would be a tire gate attached to the rear cargo door. Because of this the the rear door would not be used and it would be difficult to open on the three week trip.

The Variocage was designed to have its backside up against the 2nd row seats. But what happens when the front of the Variocage, where the doors are, is facing forward? Is it still safe? Is there any solution that could make the Variocage work in this situation while still protecting their German Shepherds?

To find an answer we worked with 4x4 North America to reach out to the MIM Construction and speak with their safety engineers. Their response was as follows:

"Theoretically the safety features of the Variocage will not be affected when facing the doors towards the rear seat backrest, but it is not tested in that direction. However as you have seen during testing it should only be turned around 180 degrees and the forces are the same, the outcome would most likely also be the same.

It will absorb energy in the same way, as long as the back rest is in upright position and it is supporting the Variocage.

What can be a problem is this:

  • In normal use can the doors be opened? 
  • Is it an angle on the folded backrest (2nd row seats) or is it in a flat position so the dogs can jump in and out of the car?
  • How will the dogs react when you fold up the rear seat back rest to secure the Variocage?
  • In case of an accident, can the backrest be folded enough to open the doors of the Variocage?
  • When positioned in the right direction the emergency hatch is designed to be opened in another way so even if you can not fold the backrest totally down you can still rescue the dogs.

These things are something we can not guarantee, and a risk that the dog owner itself must consider if they want to take and test."

So what does this mean? Well here's our takeaway:

  • In theory it should be just as safe to have the Variocage facing forward or facing backwards. However, it was never crash tested this way so this set up adds a small level of risk to safety.
  • The doors would be up against the 2nd row seats (which is the recommended position for the Variocage). Can the seats be pushed up/folded down far up enough for the doors of the Variocage to open? For reference, the length of the Variocage max is adjustable from 36.22" - 45.66", and you will set it at the length that is most comfortable for your dogs. If so, then this set up could work!