Dog harnesses for cars may not be as safe as you think

Study finds many vehicle pet restraints are inadequate in crash tests

Published: October 07, 2013 04:15 PM

Despite good intentions, many owners who are buckling up their dogs may not be using a harness that will keep the animals or passengers safe. Serious flaws were found with many popular car pet restraints in a new study by the Center for Pet Safety (CPS) and Subaru. Only one pet restraint, the Sleepypod Clickit Utility Harness, was able to offer adequate protection to the dog and the passengers of the vehicle, earning it a top score for crash protection.

More than 43 million households own a dog, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), and most pooches need to be transported in vehicles, whether for a trip to the vet or a family vacation. To understand the safety that restraints can provide in an accident, the CPS looked at systems that manufacturers claimed were tested, crash tested, or have crash protection, and they designed the test based on FMVSS 213 standard, which is the procedure currently used to certify child safety seats..  

The CPS purchased a variety of harnesses and the testing occurred in two phases. Each harness was first subjected to a preliminary strength test and if the harness remained intact during the strength test, it would continue on to the crash test portion of the evaluation. Of the 11 harnesses that claim crash protection, only seven passed the initial strength portion of the test and therefore qualified for the crash test evaluation. The systems were tested using specially designed crash test dummy dogs in three sizes: a 25 lb. Terrier mix, a 45 lb. Border Collie, and a 75 lb. Golden Retriever. The organization will use the data to help develop standards for performance and test protocols of restraint systems, since there are currently no such industry guidelines.

The Sleepypod Clickit Utility was the top performer because the dog remained restrained during every test and was deemed to offer protection to not only the pet, but to all passengers.

How do you transport your pet? Share your story in our new forum discussion.

The other harnesses that were crash tested—Klein Metal AllSafe, Cover Craft RuffRider Roadie, RC Pet Canine Friendly Crash Tested, Bergan Dog Auto Harness, Kurgo Tru-Fit Enhanced Strength, and IMMI PetBuckle—did not have optimal performance in the tests. Some of the harnesses allowed the dog to launch off of the seat or did not control the rotation of the dog. The worst products were labeled catastrophic failures, as they allowed the test dog to become a full projectile or be released from the restraint. That occurred in the IMMI model in all dog sizes, Kurgo in the 25 lb. and 75 lb. size, and the Bergan model in the 75 lb. size.

If you need to transport your pet, make sure it is properly restrained so it doesn’t get hurt or possibly injure others in a crash. Further, a proper restraint will reduce the risk of the pet interfering with the driver or otherwise causing distractions with its movement.

For more tips on how to safely transport your pet, see our report on pets and car safety.

—Liza Barth


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