Interview with the Inventor: Ira Stahl Tells Us About His K9 CarFence

When Ira Stahl wanted a better restraining system for his dogs, he made his own. It's okay -- he's an inventor.


We dog lovers are known to go to all kinds of lengths for our pooches. But one enthusiastic inventor might have us all beat. Ira Stahl is an electrician by trade and an inventor at heart. He’s also the protective papa of two PomeranianPoodle mixes, Peanut and Bear. “They’re my children,” Stahl says. The pair can usually be found riding shotgun as Stahl drives around for his electrical contracting business.

So you can imagine how Stahl panicked one day when he was forced to stop suddenly and his boys ended up on the floor. He was especially worried about Peanut, who injured his leg after jumping off a deck to chase a squirrel. The boys were fine. But as inventors are prone to do, Stahl got to thinking.

Stahl considered some of the canine restraint products already on the market. There are lots, especially as more pet owners learn that not restraining dogs while driving isn’t just dangerous, but also illegal in some states. In New Jersey, naughty pet owners can be fined up to $1,000. Ouch.

Peanut and Bear are active little co-pilots, so Stahl went looking for something that was safe but still allowed them to move around and enjoy the ride. Nothing he found was quite right.

So off to his garage the inventor went. “I came up with this netting system,” he says. “I used cargo netting and pipes and bungee cords — anything I had in the garage. And I put it together and I noticed it worked.”

After testing and retesting the contraption, Stahl said he found that the netting absorbed the energy if the car came to a sudden stop. One neighbor who stopped by and saw the first prototype wondered if his pal had gone a little nuts. But he shouldn’t have worried. Stahl has been inventing since he was about 12.

He has a long list of inventions, mostly to make things easier for himself or his business. He’s patented three inventions, including a wire dispenser he sold to a lighting guy in Connecticut and a hands-free hedge clipper he says “was just a little before its time.”

And three and a half years after creating that garage prototype, he now has a new invention: The K9 CarFence.

The fence, which adjusts to keep dogs from jumping out of it, can accommodate small dogs up to 35 pounds. It uses straps that snap to the front headrest, the visor, and seat. It can be used in the front or back seats.

Stahl is proud of his invention, which he’s working to get safety certified. But he also admits that the fence is not for every car or every dog. You should consider your dog’s size, breed, and disposition before buying any restraint.

For now, the K9 CarFence isn’t for large dogs, although Stahl is working on a version for big boys like my two Goldens. And while Stahl prefers to give his dogs some legroom, others might feel more comfortable having their dogs harnessed or crated.

At $99, the fence is more expensive than a lot of harnesses. But so far, his clients are sold. Linda Evancich, who divides her time between Philadelphia and New Jersey, where the restraint law is in place, said she’s tried several different harnesses to keep her two Malteses safe. But she usually ends up having to pull over to untangle them or readjust the restraint.

“So far, I’ve used this since June,” she says. “There’s not one thing that I would change. It literally takes a minute to set up and another minute to unhook and take it down. For my guys, it’s perfect.”

And there’s a bonus: “It’s great for groceries or your handbag. It keeps everything on your seat and off the floor.”

Mike Rae, who runs Dog Talk Training & Care for Dogs and Puppies in Lafayette Hill, PA, is equally enthusiastic about the K9 CarFence. He uses it all the time when he’s out on dog walking duties. “I would definitely recommend it to my clients,” he says. “So far, it’s worked out great.”

Stahl says he’d love it if his invention took off and was widely available. But the dog lover says the primary reason for inventing the K9 CarFence was to keep dogs safe.

“It’s really frustrating when I talk to someone and they say they would rather have their dogs on their laps when they’re driving,” he says. “I didn’t get it either until that incident in the car with Peanut. If you’re going to put a seat belt on yourself and your kids, why not keep your next loves safe too?”

How do you restrain your dogs in the car? Have you found a safety product you love? We’d love to hear what’s working (or not) for you and your pooch. Please share your experiences in the comments.

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