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Study Seeks to Establish Vehicle Pet Safety Harness Guidelines

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CPS test shows harness does not prevent dog from being hurled off of seat in a crash

CPS test shows harness does not prevent (dummy) dog from being hurled off of seat in a crash. (This is a screen capture from the video side show posted below.)

Based on recent tests, the Center for Pet Safety, a nonprofit group, announced plans to publish a standard for pet harnesses that claim to keep animals safe in vehicles, as Michele C. Hollow reports for Parade. There are no performance standards or test protocols for pet travel products, she notes, and until recently, there were no crash dummies representing pets.

The Center for Pet Safety (CPS) and Subaru teamed up to conduct crash tests at MGA Research Corporation’s federally approved vehicle occupant testing lab to see how effective such harnesses are for keeping pets safe in vehicles, Hollow writes. However, as Damon Lavrinc writes for Wired, the tests showed the products were not so great at protecting pets in the event of a car accident. And despite the lack of government standards or uniform testing procedures for dog restraint gear, manufacturers of the harnesses that were tested have claimed on packages or in promotional materials that their products underwent testing or crash testing, and provide crash protection, Lavrinc writes.

Only one restraint of the seven tested at the Manassas, Virginia, lab, the Sleepypod ClickIt Utility, was rated as a “top performer,” according to the study. The other six failed for various reasons, ranging from problems with stitching and hardware to “catastrophic failure,” in which the harness allows the test dog to become a projectile in a crash, Lavrinc writes. He notes that if a pet launches off a seat, the animal can hit a human passenger or risk being seriously injured.

To design the tests, CPS and Subaru looked to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213, which explains how a child safety seat needs to perform during testing. Those guidelines, which include a dynamic test that simulates a 30 mile per hour crash, are the ones that many of the companies making dog restraint systems say they adhere to, Lavrinc writes.

The CPS-Subaru tests used three dummy dogs that look like toy stuffed animals, one representing a 25-pound terrier mix, one standing in for a 45-pound border collie, and the third representing a 75-pound golden retriever, Lavrinc writes. Information provided by the tests will help CPS and Subaru develop the first harness safety standard and test protocols to serve as guidelines for the pet products industry, Lavrinc writes.

He quotes CPS’s founder:

‘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.’

You can see the full study here, and below is a video slide show of aspects of the study, including a cat test:


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