You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Sit. Stay. Good Passenger. You're Probably Transporting Your Pooch All Wrong - Technologue

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 2015-09-03 Frank Markus

Have you been transporting your dog safely in cars?

Sit. Stay. Good Passenger. You're Probably Transporting Your Pooch All Wrong - Technologue

I've never had children, but two years ago we adopted a rescue beagle/schnauzer mix that quickly occupied the center of our universe. She goes with us everywhere we can take her, and on car journeys she's always either in a tethered safety harness or (for longer trips) in the wire cage she sleeps in. Well, according to crash tests recently conducted by the Center for Pet Safety (with Subaru sponsorship), we're being as reckless transporting Snickers as my parents were when they allowed me to free-roam the station wagon interior. Our restraints only prevent her from distracting us.

Sleepypod Clickit Dog Safety Harness © Provided by MotorTrend Sleepypod Clickit Dog Safety Harness

Just as there wasn't much child-restraint safety research available to inform my parents, the CPS only began pioneering pet crash-safety testing in 2011. That first pet-harness test was designed using the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213 for child-restraint systems as its guideline, and it determined that none—not one—of the four brands tested managed to safely restrain a 55-pound test dummy dog, with most indicating "Extremely low likelihood of survivability for the animal and danger to humans when the dog becomes a missile." The industry took heed and in 2013 when the CPS partnered with Subaru for its second round of harness testing, the results were better. Four brands failed a static load test, but another seven survived and advanced to the dynamic sled crash test phase. Those results clearly indicated that tether devices intended to give the dog a bit more range of motion are all catastrophically unsafe, allowing the dog to become a missile, endangering human passengers and risking severe pet injury. Only the Sleepypod Clickit Utility harness ($90), which attaches directly to the lap and shoulder belt with auxiliary side straps mounted to the vehicle's LATCH child-seat hooks, safely retained the dog test dummy.

Sleepypod Clickit Dog Safety Harness © Provided by MotorTrend Sleepypod Clickit Dog Safety Harness

In July, the CPS tested crates and carriers and the news was even worse for Snickers' wire sleep cage travel solution. The bent hooks and crimped loops that allow such cages to fold up for easy carrying come undone at the moment of impact, sending the dog flying. Similarly, soft-sided pet carriers should only be considered for use on the floor, up against the front seat for safety and CPS does not recommend using pet booster seats, as it has yet to rigorously test these products and no manufacturer it is aware of even claims to have crash tested them.

These are early days for pet-safety testing, and there is a desperate lack of pet injury data.

Of the four proper travel cages tested this year, only one managed to stay attached to the simulated cargo-area and fully retain the dummy dog with a door that still opened easily. That was the Gunner Kennel G1 (at $485 it'll also reportedly survive a direct 12-gauge shotgun blast and a 60-pound weight dropped from two stories high).

Gunner Kennel Crate crash test © Provided by MotorTrend Gunner Kennel Crate crash test Gunner Kennels Crate © Provided by MotorTrend Gunner Kennels Crate

These are early days for pet-safety testing. CPS founder/CEO Lindsey A. Wolko commissioned construction of the dog crash-test dummies and even fitted some with accelerometers, leaning on NASA research for survivability thresholds, but there is a desperate lack of real-world pet injury accident data. She says that no national organization currently records pet accident injury/mortality data, and that pet-insurance providers that may have access to some such data consider it proprietary (perhaps because they're predominantly owned by the companies producing the products that could be negatively implicated by the data). Wolko says the CPS is the world's only non-profit organization working to establish safety standards for pet products. To date, the harness and cage mentioned above are the only two products that have earned CPS Top Performer certification, but hopefully with our help and that of Subaru (69 percent of its owners have pets!) publicizing the CPS' efforts, the pet-products industry will begin collaborating, sharing information, and making all our furry friends safer.

UP NEXT
UP NEXT

AdChoices
AdChoices

More From Motor Trend

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon