The question that the Continental rep had is very common within the show community too because nobody trusts the plastic folding dog crates due to their terrible design, but there is a massive difference between ours and the plastic dog crate folding style.
Way back in the 1960s when the folding style was developed and patented, they used the same style of latches that we and others still use today. Oddly enough, they were actually designed for use specifically within the aircraft industry - they wanted something that would not loosen when operating on a plane with all of the usual take offs, landings and vibration. One of the people I have met over the years was in St Louis and he was something to do with the maintenace department in the old TWA airline which was based up there. He pointed out that the original "quarter turn screws" were actually imprinted with "L10-11" which if you recall was a type of plane some years back, because that was the plane that they were first designed for specifically to take what a plane would throw at them. Of course as the years passed, they started using them in all kinds of planes, not just that one model.
Between the crates that were first made by Bob McKee and the others that followed through the years, there certainly have been tens if not hundreds of thosands of dogs flown not just domestically in America, but all over the world on all of the airlines. All of the manufacturers have sold into the overseas markets as well as through north and south America, so they are used all over. The serious dog exhibitors and their professional handlers go somewhere almost every week. When there is a National Specialty show for a certain breed there can be an entry of hundreds to over 2000 dogs as there were in the Golden Retriever show back in October in OK. A good number of those dogs are flown in because the people will not drive that far if they live on either coast for example and that is just one show of hundreds held annually.
To be honest, the way you would have to fold the crate up if using one of our folding style, requires you to turn the crate upside down before doing anything with the 8 screws - gravity will not allow the crate to fold upwards of course, so it has to be placed on the roof before loosening the screws. Since the key elements are the front and rear panels and the hinges for those are on the top, there is NO way for them to allow the crates to accidentally fold, because that would require them to be held up as they are being folded inwards. Trust me, we have tried and it is extremely difficult so every Tejas crate is shipped with an instruction sheet that explains the ONLY way they can fold their crate is to turn it upside down first and follow the steps laid out. As we have seen ourselves at shows over the last 26 years, even if you don't engage all of the screws, the crate still stays upright - and that is allowing for a large dog jumping on top several times to be groomed. The laws of physics exclude the possibility of the entire crate from folding down unless ALL of the screws have been disengaged and the front panel, then the rear panel being pushed inwards, so that they can fold flat onto the roof below. They are specifically engineered so that you MUST do it in a certain way or the crate cannot fold correctly, so again, it is basically impossible for all of that to happen by accident.
The dog show people have been using this design since back in the 1960s and in my years as one of them, I have never once heard of a crate folding accidentally and I have to believe that it is the way they are engineered. Again though, if the majority of the crates that your customers would use would be a single use, or used only a few times, I would suggest that the rigid sided version would be the better choice for reasons of cost. The dog show people do LOVE the folding style because they are so much easier to store and travel with when they arrive at the destination city. For example, they can easily fold the crate and put it in the trunk of a rental car, whereas with the rigids, they would require a larger SUV or mini van to handle the fixed-side crate. Due to the design of the folding style, they can save money on every journey and of course when entering hotels or the show building, the crate is basically just a 5 inch deep suitcase and can be easily carried instead of dealing with something like a traditional 400/500. Your typical clients though would not reap the typical rewards as do my dog exhibitors, so there probably would not be as much justification and they could get what they need from the rigid version.....
Some of the people that show, particularly the pro handlers, travel with many dogs in a specially made box truck or an RV. Inside they will have a mixture of sizes for the various breeds and they are all stacked 2 or 3 high as they travel as much as 60,000 miles a year. We have done entire box trucks filled with crates for people and we use the same stainless steel latches to secure the upper crates to the lower crate. WIth the bigger models - a 300 or larger - we use 2 latches on the front and back instead of just the one which is fine for the smaller, lighter breeds. I was actually intending to bring a stacked set with me to show you the rigid model and you can see the level of rigidity and safety that they provide. Even when using the folding version, they seem to have done fine - and again, this approach has been going for over 30 years without any known failures. I have never done any load testing as such, but years ago, the original manufacturer used to have a picture on his brochure of 4 folding crates spread out in a rectangle and he had a car lowered onto the four crates - a wheel on each roof. Pretty impressive stuff really, bearing in mind that the crates were the folding style and I suppose even a small car has to weigh well over a ton, so each crate was supporting at least 600 pounds.....
I use the same aircraft grade aluminum that he did, so admittedly the idea may not work with other types, but the overall fit and finish available today through the computer aided design and computer driven machines provide a very accurately made and far superior crate in terms of what we offer these days and as you will see, the way the finished article goes together, there is little doubt that they would hold well over a hundred pounds because the average Bouvier is about 125 lbs, as is a Rottweiler and many others, so when they jump up there for grooming, there isn't even a flexing on the roof - the whole point of ours is that they CAN support even the large dogs for grooming!! As I may have said earlier, we know that we are massively over built, but we do that deliberately so that should something bad happen, the dogs will have a better chance of survival. For example, although it is very unlikely that the metal would even flex on the floor or the roof when the dogs are inside or on top, we actually provide two support beams or stiffeners on each, so that the roof and floor act as a "roll cage" when things go wrong. Remind me to tell you about out clients accidents and the outcome for their dogs - they are pretty good!!
The issue of heat is another issue that is very much in our favour. When vendors go to the outdoor shows, many use the "EZ-Up" brand of tents for shade. They have a metal frame and a plastic sheeting as the roof and depending on the weather, we might use the walls for protection. When at the summer shows in particular, we are all cooking under the tents, because the radiant heat which is what does the damage comes straight through the plastic fabric of the roof. A lot of the exhibitors use them as well, but as they have all found, the dogs are "in the shade" under the plastic but are still getting far too hot.
If left in the open, the VariKennel type of crate will absorb and retain the heat into the plastic material and the dogs can quickly become overheated. Ironically, the aluminum actually keeps the dogs cooler than the plastic because the aluminum reflects the radiant heat to a great extent. That and the far better ventilation (the number of holes and their location are key) allows the heat to disapate more easily. The dog seen on my website had a VERY thick black coat and was in his folding 500 done in the silver vein color. Even if he wasn't shown at every location, he travelled with me around the nation and I could leave him out in the sun all day even whe the temps were up in the low 90s. If anyone asked me about whether they get too hot in a metal crate, I could walk them over quietly to my own crate and they could look inside. He would be in there sound asleep without any stress, with a shallow, easy breathing pattern and while somewhat counter intuitive, the people immediately saw for themselves, that he was doing better in there than their own dogs were in a plastic crate, even if sitting in the shade of a tent or a building.
As you know, the plastic crates meet the minimum percentage in terms of ventilated space, but the way the spaces are located certainly doesn't help the dogs. The side panels or holes are typically on the upper half, so there is no flow at all down at the floor level where the dogs are lying. Worse yet, the entire rear panel normally has no holes at all, so that too creates a dead area. We place three rows high and three rows lower down on the sides and the rear panel, so whether my dog is standing or lying down, there is plenty of airflow past his face and that has been a VERY popular feature of our products. Again, my typical buyers are not the once in a blue moon dog shippers, these folks use the crates several days every week throughout many years, so they have very expert experience about keeping their dogs cool and comfortable.
We had responded to quite frequent requests from people that have the double coated breeds (Malamutes for example that will begin to pant at anything over 50 degrees), the snub-nosed breeds like Pekinese, Bulldogs and the rest, who again really struggle with other crates and crate training due to the lack of ventilation in those products and the location of the holes that are there. According to the owners, the giant breeds like Mastiffs, St Bernards and the others again seem to do better with this type of crate than with any others. I think the same rationale applies regardless of the breed.