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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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March 15, 2013 at 5:46 pm

Looking forward to the testing results re: pet harnessing! I have a 70 lb lab and never take her in the car without her own 'seat belt'! Glad to read other pet owners' loving care & safety for their 4 legged children! Nobody needs a 70 lb missile flying during an accident! I wonder if Consumer Report has researched this as well? Another issue I've seen are dogs - unrestrained - in the bed of a pick-up truck!!

March 15, 2013 at 5:30 pm


Denise Stafford
March 15, 2013 at 3:55 pm

As a Subaru owner I a pleased to see this companies participation in this project to protect our pets. I hope after the results are in Subaru will step forward in making a safe product for our pets and that it will be able to be fitted in our current Subaru cars (as well as other makes).

vicki thornborough
March 15, 2013 at 3:48 pm

I hope that the results of these test will be widely shared. I,too, put my dog in a harness that I know would stop him from being thrown but he does get tangled up in it. I keep looking for some better way to restrain him.

Danny Burk
March 15, 2013 at 2:05 pm

I appreciate Subaru's involvement with this project. I further hope their cars will soon offer some kind of built-in pet restraint device - or at least something that readily attaches to one of the devices determined by the study to be effective. After all, if Subaru is going to run TV ads representing they sell cars directly to dogs, they should want to protect their customer base.

March 15, 2013 at 1:57 pm

my dog likes it

Annette Ozgowicz
March 15, 2013 at 10:22 am

While living in Cal a few years ago the neighbor took his 3 dogs with him to pick up wife at airport ...He and 1 dog never made it..1 of the dogs jumped into front seat causeing driver to run off the road. Cars need to have the same safty rules for dogs are for kids!! The back eat and under seat belt protection.

Leanne Magincalda
March 15, 2013 at 5:40 am

This direction for our 4-legged family members is way over due. Glad to see that the Center is taking a more aggressive approach, as well as Subaru. Too long overlooked. It is similar to the issue of no seat belts for children riding a bus. Yet, most accidents happen within 5 miles of home! The education transportation entities should sit up and take notice and do something there too!

Andrew Cook
March 15, 2013 at 2:55 am

About time. I was in a accident a few years ago with my Lab in the car and luckly she was in the back seat behind the drivers seat. When the accident happened she hit the back of the seat and I hit the air bag which the EMT said saved her life( I refused treatment until they checked her out and the fire department was good enough to put her in a vehicle to stay warm)Long story short she was ok but I ended up busted up a bit but i'll take that over her being hurt. I went out and bought the pet restrait for her but never knew there wasn't any testing done on them. A big thank you to the sheriff officer for standing up for me in court as he told a bystander to leave the dog alone as she was scared and laying on my chest and not wanting anyone near me and the guy was bit then tried to sue me for it but the judge throw it out because of the cop. Plus she would only let the female EMT check her out and the female firefighter put her in a vehicle. And on a side note I had to pick her up at the fire station as the firemen took her back to the station to keep an eye on her instead of her going with a dog warden.

Patricia Cardon
March 15, 2013 at 12:35 am

I'm glad that such testing will take place. We drove across country about 8 years ago and had only regular harnesses for our Shih Tzu's that we attached to a special seatbelt strap. I knew if we were in a crash they wouldn't be thrown out of the window, but worried they would be strangled or have internal injuries caused by an unpadded harness.