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Is your dog safe in your car, even when buckled in?

Crash testing shows some pet safety restraints for cars are ineffective

Published: July 26, 2016, 6:40 AM
Updated: December 7, 2016, 5:53 PM

Dog with Sleepypod harness

It has been widely accepted for decades that seat belts are the most effective crash protection systems available for people in cars. But how about your dog?

In the event of a crash, an unrestrained dog is not only in danger itself, it can also be launched into human passengers further endangering them.

Several pet harnesses are available to restrain a dog in a crash and some manufacturers claim to test their products, but until recently there were no uniform standards and protocols for assessing their effectiveness, so those claims couldn't be substantiated.

To address that issue, in 2013 Subaru and the U.S.-based Center for Pet Safety (CPS) – a non-profit research and advocacy organization dedicated to companion animal and consumer safety – joined forces in a study to test the effectiveness of pet harnesses marketed with safety claims.

Crash Test - Pet Safety Restraint

The study, designed by CPS, mirrored the same crash tests used to measure the effectiveness of child safety products. The data generated were used to assist in the development of the first harness safety standard and to serve as guidelines to the pet products industry.

In July 2014, CPS published the CPS-001-014.01 Companion Animal Safety Harness Restraint System Test Protocol and Rating Guidelines as an output from this testing.

Crash Test - Pet Safety Restraint

The tests were conducted by MGA Research Corporation, an independent testing laboratory, using realistic, specially designed crash test dogs. They included an 11-kg (25-lb) terrier mix, a 20-kg (45-lb) border collie and a 34-kg (75 lb) golden retriever. No real dogs were used in the crash testing.

The life-like dog models are said to provide a realistic representation for testing purposes, similar to the testing conducted for human occupant safety. 

Crash Test - Pet Safety Restraint

Alarmingly, the crash tests uncovered serious flaws in several of the popular pet restraints currently on the market, with many resulting in catastrophic failure.

They revealed only one harness that consistently kept a dog from launching off the seat and offered substantial protection to all passengers. That product was the Sleepypod Clickit Utility Harness. To date, only the current version of that harness, called Sleepypod Clickit Sport, has been crash test certified by the Center for Pet Safety. Complete results for all the harnesses tested are available at the Center for Pet Safety website. They’re worth a look if you care for your dog. 

The Sleepypod harnesses can be purchased direct from Sleepypod online and at stores across the USA and Canada.