Is your dog safe in your car?

Crash testing shows some pet safety restraints for cars are ineffective

Published: October 3, 2013, 6:00 PM
Updated: November 22, 2021, 4:05 PM

Crash Test - Pet Safety Restraint

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 in a car 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 as yet there are no uniform standards and protocols for assessing their effectiveness, so those claims can't be substantiated.

To address that issue, 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 – have joined forces in a study to test the effectiveness of pet harnesses marketed with safety claims.

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

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.

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

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.

Complete test results for all the harnesses tested are available from the Center for Pet Safety.

The organization says its ultimate goal is to allow consumers to select independently tested pet products and help them to identify top performing brands. The CPS is actively working toward publishing a harness standard later this year.

Subaru of America says it will offer Sleepypod’s Clickit Utility Harnesses for purchase through its Subaru Gear catalog and at dealers in the U.S. in the near future.

They can also be purchased direct from Sleepypod online and at stores across Canada.