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

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

Study finds many vehicle pet restraints are inadequate in crash tests

Last updated: June 21, 2015 07:00 AM

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. A study by the Center for Pet Safety (CPS) and Subaru found serious flaws with many popular car pet restraints. Of all the restraints tested, only one provided adequate protection to the dog and the passengers of the vehicle.

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. A proper restraint not only protects your pet and your passengers in a crash (where a loose pet can become a deadly projectile), it also reduces the risk of the pet interfering with the driver or otherwise causing distractions with its movement.

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. They based the test on FMVSS 213 standard, which is the procedure currently used to certify child safety seats. 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 CPS purchased a variety of harnesses and the testing occurred in two phases. Each harness was first subjected to a preliminary strength test; 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 Sleepypod Clickit Utility was the top performer. The dog remained restrained during every test and was deemed to offer protection to not only the pet, but to the passengers in the car.

Learn more about car safety.

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 perform as well. Some of the harnesses allowed the dog to launch off of the seat; others did not control the rotation of the dog. The worst products were labeled catastrophic failures, as they allowed the dog to become a 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.

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

Liza Barth

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