By Nicole Ellis, CPDT-KA
(2 min read)
Did you know that 31% of all car accidents involving pets occur when drivers are distracted by their animals?
There are multiple harnesses on the market that claim to have safety features for car travel or claim to have been crash-tested for safety ratings. But what evidence and data is there to substantiate these claims?
The Center for Pet Safety—a non-profit research and advocacy organization dedicated to companion animal and consumer safety—ran an independent safety test of vehicle harnesses and crates using small, medium, and large crash-test-dummy dogs. The two-phase study consisted of a preliminary static test where the CPS measured the load-bearing capacity of the harness straps, then—only if a harness passed the first phase—did the CPS subject it to a crash test that simulated a 30mph head-on impact.
These tests were designed to simulate what could happen in a real-life auto accident, in which an unrestrained 10-lb dog in a 50 mph crash will exert about 500 lbs of force.
Unfortunately, many name-brand harnesses didn't make it past the first phase of testing, brands of products you may own in your own home for your pet. Some of these harnesses earned the rating ‘catastrophic failure,’ and yet sadly, are still marketed as devices that keep your pet safe in a vehicle.
Ultimately, only one harness could be certified as ‘safe’ by the Center for Pet Safety—the SleepyPod Clickit Harness. In the crash test, the harness provided sufficient restraint to keep the crash-dummy dog in the seat, much like a human seat belt would function.
And like human seat belts, safety devices only work when you use them. We’re all safety-minded when it comes to our pets, but that sometimes conflicts with the reality that we’re rushing out the door with our dogs in tow, running behind schedule, trying to avoid traffic, whatever. This is the last time you want to be dealing with straps and harnesses and wriggly dogs. A safety pet harness has to be easy to use or else the plain truth is, we’re not going to use it every time, every ride. ￼
So when you first get a crash-tested harness, it's important to spend a few minutes adjusting it to find the correct fit. Then, if you're using a SleepyPod Clickit Harness, strapping your pup into the car is simple: slide the seatbelt under the two straps, and you're good to go. When the harness is in place, your dog will be able to sit up and lie down comfortably on the seat.
If you aren't using a Pupster Approved harness, we encourage you to see how your harness ranks for car safety. And no matter how carefully you drive, accidents can happen. We have safety laws in place to protect children in cars; while there are no laws on dogs in vehicles, the same forces will impact them in a crash. So many things can go wrong on the road: people text, they run red lights, drivers stop short, cars break down. You want your pets to be as protected as possible in these situations.
Remember—your pet should be riding in the back seat. We don’t allow children in the front seat due to the force of an airbag exploding – if that was your dog, they might survive the actual impact, but the energy of the airbag could be very harmful.
[Note: We limited the scope of this article to harnesses, but crates are another option for vehicle travel. Pupster recommends the Sleepypod crate for traveling with smaller dogs.]