Lintran – Richard Faulks meets the founder of the dog transit box company
Richard Faulks meets the founder of Lintran, whose products transport dogs of all shapes and sizes for all sorts of people. Perhaps you, too.
It would be very hard to arrive at any shoot day in the UK and not see one of Lintran’s dog transit boxes being used by one or more of the Guns, beaters or pickers-up. Their popularity seems to be ubiquitous. There is a good reason for this: they’re well-designed, well-constructed and do the job of transiting dogs very well.
Frank and Isobel Hopkins are passionate about their dogs and have 34 years of experience in the manufacture of their boxes, which are designed with a dogs-first approach. Frank first hatched the idea of a purpose-designed dog box after he had a bad experience with one of his dogs.
It had managed to pull off the metal dog guard that was fitted to his Daihatsu Fourtrak, then climbed into the front passenger compartment and proceeded to leave an unwelcome gift smeared around the cabin. Back in the day, there used to be a metal guard and a separate boot-liner for transiting dogs. There weren’t any other options. Frank decided that there had to be a better way of safely containing a dog in a vehicle to avoid another ‘dirty protest’.
Frank and Isobel had previously run a car bodyshop and part of their business was fitting fibreglass body kits. A chance meeting with Larry Richards on a corporate trip to Brussels brought the project to fruition. Larry was a manufacturer of fibreglass items and had offered to make car bumpers and spoilers for Frank, but when Frank asked about making dog boxes, Larry had just the thing already made for another purpose.
The size and shape of the fibreglass boxes were perfect for what Frank had in mind. A metal grill and catches were added to the boxes and the first Lintran box was launched back in 1988. The box’s first outing was at the Lincolnshire Show where Frank and Isobel showed the design to gundog trainers they knew. Their input was noted and tweaks were made, so instead of a single door that opened vertically, deluxe boxes were added with two doors that opened horizontally. From there, the boxes evolved and their range of dog-orientated products expanded.
The factory, which moved from buildings behind their house to a vacant garage forecourt next door, was visited by HRH The Princess Royal to celebrate Lintran’s 30th year in business and she was presented with one of the boxes for her Land Rover Discovery. Now, there is an array of options, sizes and styles you can buy off-the-shelf for most popular vehicles and, in the unlikely event that there isn’t a box that fits your vehicle, Lintran will design and build one to your own spec. They’re all manufactured by the team on-site in Lincolnshire, hence Lintran – Lincoln Transit.
Lintran’s dog boxes are something that I associate predominantly with the shooting market, no doubt because I see so many on shoots and at game fairs. But that’s only part of Lintran’s business. Many different charities, the armed forces, public services and the general public have a need to transport working dogs and pets around the country and, sometimes, around the world.
Frank and Isobel’s first public service client was the Metropolitan Police dog training school. Lintran was approached by a police inspector who was also a keen Shot and he thought that the boxes would be perfect for their police dogs, so ordered a couple on the spot. This opened up a whole new avenue for Lintran and, from there, it started to supply many other services, which now include the RAF, the fire service, the SAS, the SBS (Special Boat Service), the USAF (United States Air Force), the police and the bomb squad. The varied customer base has thrown up some interesting vehicles that Frank has had to design boxes for and many differing sizes of dogs, too.
Possibly the least likely vehicle was an Audi TT used by the bomb squad. It prefers to keep a very low profile when working and visited with a small working cocker spaniel. So a small box was designed to fit in the rear of the unmarked car. Some of the emergency services need the ability to load dogs and their boxes on to aircraft and some of the boxes are designed to fit pallets, so they can be lifted from a vehicle and placed for easy loading. Attention to detail and the needs of the end user are always taken into account.
Specific requirements are important to many clients and some of the charities Lintran supplies are cases in point. Take the Dogs Trust, for example. It needs plenty of flexibility when it has a vehicle fitted out.
The vans will have berths for up to 12 dogs and every breed under the sun could end up in one of the vans. Some of the boxes fitted for Blue Cross were also designed for flexibility – it chose single boxes, using one or two in its vans, with removable dividing panels and a variety of door openings. The Verso model allows for two small dogs and two labrador-sized dogs to be accommodated, or two German shepherds or a Great Dane with the dividers removed.
Some of the boxes will be fixed to the vans and some are designed for easy removal. One particular box for dangerous dogs has been designed with openings at each end – one with a guillotine-style door that can be released quickly via a cord to shut the dog in. The idea is to slowly push the box towards the dog by the quick-closing end first and leave the door open a little at the other end to encourage the dog to try to rush through to escape. When the dog enters the box, they close the conventional door and release the quick-closing door to safely contain the dog. It is a far better option than the noose restraining method that is both more distressing for the dog and puts the dog handler at greater risk.
There are many other dog charities that Lintran works for, including Battersea Dogs Home, the Greyhound Trust and the Border Collie Trust. Some have requirements to house up to 18 dogs in their ambulances, but they are all different, and Frank and Isobel and the team are always happy to help and innovate. Frank’s latest project is the Tardis, which is designed specifically for vehicles with smaller door openings.
The Tardis box concertinas to fit through the door and then expands to make the most of the space in the vehicle. On the face of it a simple idea, but aren’t the best ideas always so?
Lintran seems to have an answer to most people’s dog transportation needs, from the obvious boxes to van fit-outs and trailers for multiple dogs. The firm is pleased to have been consulted about, designed and built custom boxes and drawers for use in Africa for several wildlife rangers for their endangered species protection teams. Lintran also supplies kennels and storage for dog paraphernalia, guns and drinks.
When I visited the showroom and workshop, a customer dropped by having picked up his new Range Rover only 20 minutes earlier. He’d been discussing with Isobel a second-hand reconditioned box for his two labradors, but in the end decided on a new box. Lintran was his first stop-off and Range Rovers are one of the many vehicles that they can supply boxes for off the shelf.
He also decided to buy a rubber bumper mat to protect the tailgate as the dogs jump in. These mats are usually neatly clipped on to the box, or can be rolled up when the dog is in the box, but the customer wanted the fixings higher up on the box. After 10 minutes, the minor tweak was completed and he was on his way – another happy customer, showing the benefit of having the workshop on-site.
Frank is a keen Shot and spending time shooting with his five dogs is enjoyable and good for business, he tells me, as he’s always introduced as “Frank from Lintran”. But his relaxation comes from DJing with his substantial collection of records, as well as fixing up vintage cars and vans.
However, Frank and Isobel’s passion for their business and customer service is plain to see. “We’ve always prided ourselves as being specialists,” says Frank. The dog’s comfort and safety always comes first and they’d rather let a sale go than compromise on either. “Shooting has always been a big part of our business and it always will be.”