I admit to being one of those drivers who never gave a second thought to letting my dog ride unrestrained in the backseat of the car. Over the years I became more aware of hazards like a neighbor’s dog becoming lost after a car crash when a car door sprang open or another friend’s dog sustaining serious bruises when it hit the dashboard in a crash.
It turns out, there are people hard at work in developing safety systems for pets in cars and raising our awareness of the potential dangers. At a speed of just 35 miles per hour, a 60-pound dog can become a 2,700 projectile in a car crash.1
The video below shows what happens to canine crash test dummies in various crash scenarios. The harness, crate, and carrier crashworthiness studies were conducted by the Center for Pet Safety (CPS) and Subaru. 2 I urge readers to view the video for yourselves and will just say that I was shaken to see how easily some of the harnesses and crates failed. If these had been real dogs, the results would have been tragic.
The CPS tests use Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards in developing their test protocols. While pet supply stores offer more and more choices for safety restraints and pet carriers, the above video shows that many fall short of the measure of safety you think you are buying. Here is a link to the Center for Pet Safety’s list of safety harnesses, travel carriers, and travel crates that have been certified as having passed their crash tests. 3
Some brands of harnesses have worked directly with independent testing facilities. Below is a video of a crash test of the Kurgo brand of dog seatbelt harness that I use with my dog Skipper (note: we do not receive any compensation for highlighting this brand). This crash test was conducted at the Calspan test facility in Buffalo, New York simulating the equivalent of a 30-mph crash. 4 Imagine what would happen to the crash test dummy pooch if there was no restraint at all or if a crash happened at a higher speed.
My goal in sharing these videos isn’t to sell you on one brand or another, but to think about your own pet and consider whether there is more you might do to ensure your shared travels are as safe as possible.
In his excellent article for Outside entitled, “We Need to Talk About Keeping Dogs Safe in Cars,” Wes Siler quoted Patrick Kruse, founder and R&D director of Ruffwear dog gear as saying “Securing a dog is kind of like buying a fire extinguisher. Most of us don’t plan on testing a dog safety harness, but if you ever do, it really becomes apparent that having a dog restrained is a good thing.” 1
1Siler, Wes. We Need to Talk About Keeping Dogs Safe in Cars. Outside. 16 July 2018.
2Your Car. Dog Crash Tests. YouTube. 26 July 2015.
3Center for Pet Safety. CPS Certified.
4Kurgo Dog Gear. Impact Harness – Crash Test Size: Large. 15 January 2019.
R.A. Kroft writes about her day-to-day journey in living a smaller, more sustainable life and other topics that interest her.
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