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Car safety test for pet restraints

By Tara Baukus Mello ·
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Posted: 5 pm ET

While cars and car seats are tested to meet safety requirements during a car crash, harnesses and other devices that restrain pets have no such standardized testing, rendering claims made by the makers of these devices completely unsubstantiated.

In an effort to substantiate restraint-manufacturer claims, The Center for Pet Safety, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, recently conducted a pilot study that concluded the majority of pet restraints currently available don't provide acceptable protection in a crash. In the pilot study, the group used a 55-pound crash-test-dummy dog equipped with various pet restraints attached to the car seat belt to test performance in a 30 mph collision, using the same standards used to test child car seats. All of the restraints tested showed that they could lead to serious or fatal injuries for the pet, as well as the driver. Restraining pets safely in the car is important for the safety of the animal and human occupants during a crash, but also because an unrestrained pet could cause distraction resulting in a crash that is the driver's fault, which could raise auto insurance rates.

As a result of the study, The Center for Pet Safety, in conjunction with Subaru of America, is creating a set of standards for testing pet restraints in cars, testing pet restraints in the future and announcing the results. In its study, and moving forward, the organization will use scientific testing and reference the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards to establish the criteria for the standards and test protocols.

Tara Baukus Mello writes the cars blog as well as the weekly Driving for Dollars column, providing both practical financial advice for consumers as well as insight into the latest developments in the automotive world. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.

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October 26, 2013 at 2:12 am

For small dogs get a little cage. Put the dog in it, and seat belt the cage thru the handle on the cage.

Do not drive with your pet in your lap. If you get in an accident and your airbag goes off it will injure your pet. I have seen a dog paralyzed because of it.

Your dog doesn't need to look out the window, but they need you to keep them safe

March 16, 2013 at 11:59 am

I am a new mommy to a 4 year old York Terrier Chihuahua. I am seeking the best car carriers for him. I thought about for the long road trips, the harness that would keep him the back but he is able to move around in seat. I also thought about a seat/basket where he can see out the window but be safe. Please give ideas and locations for me to find the fabulous item you suggest. Thanks alot.

Fred South
March 16, 2013 at 10:27 am

Every so often some "legislator" in MD who doesn't have much to do introduces a bill to prohibit a pet (dog) from riding in the front seat (shotgun) and sometimes wants dogs restrained. I have a Berner and the cargo area of my Jeep Grand, with the rear seats folded down is her spot. She rides well anticipating turns and stops with commands from me like: "turn" and "stop". My driving behaviors are such as extreme control actions are rarely necessary. I had a Subaru once and it was not a good vehicle, but kudos to the company for researching this issue. The only problem is standards give the legislative whack-a-dos a tool to try to implement unnecessary laws.

Kathy Doutt
March 15, 2013 at 9:24 pm

I agree this is a topic sorely needing to be addressed. I have standard poodles who don't like to be crated. The older one also would fight the restraint "system." Crates are probably the only way to go, but we also have to consider the air bag impact on a crate (or a dog in a restraint), if they are in a seat. Do we all need SUVs/crossovers/hatchbacks to keep the crates safe in the rear luggage area?

Maureen Smith
March 15, 2013 at 8:40 pm

I am a firm believer in pet restraints. Our Westie,Mia,is attached to a seat belt with her harness. On long trips, for her safety and comfort, we use her crate. For your safety and theirs, it is very dangerous and distracting for your precious pet to be riding on your lap or in the front seat unrestrained. They are your precious cargo. You wouldn't think of placing your baby or child in a car unrestrained. Thank you to Subaru of America and The Center for Pet Safety for addressing this safety issue. I am very interested in the results of the study. Thank you again.

March 15, 2013 at 6:35 pm

I have an 80-lb Lab who actually hates being in the car-I have been torn about a harness bc someone brought up the fact that the dog can't get out of the harness if she is ok, and can save herself-I understand about her being thrown, but....any thoughts?

Pete Hershman
March 15, 2013 at 6:29 pm

Finally someone is trying to keep us all safe. We took a trip to the vet today and I put my small Bichon & Snorkie in their kennel in the back of my Crossover SUV...needless to say, I worried about someone hitting the back of the SUV and crushing my little ones. I am glad someone is finally doing something to keep them safe. A safety/cargo net behind the front seat that attaches to the floor and ceiling or seat-belt restraint would also be a great item.

roberta wolf
March 15, 2013 at 6:23 pm

Our two Pugs have car seats and have seatbelts attached to their harness. They would love to jump in the front with us. It would definitely be distracting with the suddeness of their jump. Anyway with carseats they can see out the window, and we have covered the inside with very soft material. They LOVE IT!