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Study Finds Most Pet Car Safety Restraints Unsafe


Remember those crash dummy tests for car safety? Well, until recently, there were no crash dummies for pets. In fact, in the U.S., there are no performance standards or test protocols whatsoever for pet travel products.

While many pet car restraint manufacturers claim to test their products, without uniform test standards and protocols, these claims cannot be substantiated. Recognizing the severity of this issue, Subaru of America, Inc. teamed up with the Center for Pet Safety (CPS), a 501(c)(3) non-profit research and advocacy organization dedicated to consumer and companion animal safety, to conduct similar crash tests. The CPS is actively working toward publishing a harness standard later this year.

The Center for Pet Safety never uses real dogs in its crash testing.

The Center for Pet Safety never uses real dogs in its crash testing.

“Safety for all passengers, including our pets, is very important to Subaru and to our drivers," says Michael McHale, director of communications at Subaru of America, Inc. "Selecting the wrong harness could be just as detrimental as not using one at all. Most pet owners don't know the dangers of not properly harnessing their pet while in the car. With nearly half of Subaru drivers also being dog owners, we want them to be as informed as possible.”

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Subaru and CPS enlisted MGA Research Corporation, an independent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration testing laboratory, to conduct rigorous crash testing on commonly available pet safety harnesses using realistic, specially designed crash test dogs. Testing was performed using multiple, specially designed crash test dogs developed by CPS, including a 25 lb. terrier mix, a 45 lb. border collie and a 75 lb. golden retriever. The life-like dog models provided a realistic representation for testing purposes, similar to the testing conducted for human occupant safety. The study found serious flaws in many popular pet restraints currently on the market. And it identified the Sleepypod Clickit Utility Harness as the 2013 Top Performing Harness. The Sleepypod Clickit Utility Harness was the clear top performing harness brand, the only harness tested to consistently keep a dog from launching off of the seat and the only restraint deemed to offer substantial protection to all passengers, including the dog, in the event of an accident. If a pet launches off of the seat, it can strike a human passenger or risk serious contact injury to the dog from internal structures in the car.

Data from the study will be used in the development of the first harness safety standard and test protocols that will serve as guidelines to the pet products industry. "Subaru and CPS share a common love for pets and safety, and it is our mission to communicate to pet owners that an effective harness should keep the pet in place to prevent distraction to the driver as well as offer measurable levels of protection to all passengers in the event of a crash," says Lindsey Wolko, founder and CEO of the Center for Pet Safety. "I, like many people, consider my dog to be a part of my family, and dogs need to be secured with harnesses that have been tested for safety the same way car seats and seat belts that protect our family members have been tested, both for the pet's safety as well as the safety of all passengers."

To view the full study, visit CPS.

Michele C. Hollow writes the popular pet blog Pet News and Views. She is the author of The Everything Guide to Working with Animals, and is currently writing a book about the first WWI service dog.

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