In 2013, Subaru of America and the Center for Pet Safety teamed up to test dog safety-harnesses. Their main goal was to ensure pets are kept safe while being transported and that each manufacturer’s claims of “crash protection” are valid, and able to perform as promised. Throughout the 2013 Safety Harness Crashworthiness Study, a range of harnesses, which the manufacturers claimed were “Testing”,“Crash Testing” or offered “Crash Protection”, were tested to determine if their statements were true and correct.
It should be noted, the Center for Pet Safety ran a preliminary crash study test in 2011. Four safety harnesses were tested. All four failed to provide proper protection for their canine counterpart. Admittedly, this study was not thorough enough to provide helpful statistical information regarding the use of safety harnesses, as only four undisclosed brands were tested, while there were over a dozen brands on the market at the time. The unintended, yet virtuous, outcome of this testing is that many of the top harness manufacturers have become more rigorous with their own safety testing, and have made improvements to their existing products.
Out of the seven brands that were found to be stable enough to test in the 2013 study, the clear top performer is the Clickit Utility, which is manufactured by Sleepypod. While the Clickit Utility provides the best protection against car accidents, it limits range of motion to the extreme. Some dogs may get anxious if forced to use the Clickit Utility, which may cause them to panic and hurt themselves or encourage chewing through the safety device. That being said, some dogs may not mind the harness, or with proper training could be desensitized to wearing it. While the Clickit Utility passed the test with flying colors, it isn’t for every dog. There are other options that met the safety standards set in place by the Center for Pet Safety, like Klein Metal’s AllSafe Harness or Cover Craft’s RuffRider Roadie.
The danger associated with auto accidents does not only apply to our pets. Safety regulations for people regarding seatbelt use has been in place for decades, yet there are many cases in which the use of a seatbelt has caused injury or has still resulted in death. Each car accident is unique, and no matter how much safety testing is done, there is always a risk involved. This does not stop people from wearing seatbelts, and it should not stop us from strapping our dogs in.
Having extra protection, such as a safety harness, not only provides peace of mind, but keeps dogs in place. At the very least, your strapped in dog will be less of a distraction while you are driving, reducing your risk of getting into an accident in the first place. There are other methods to restrain your dog in the car, such as crates, barriers, fencing and screens. These will also help provide distraction-free driving, but they have not been properly tested, and it cannot be concluded that they will keep your pet safe in the case of an accident.
The Center for Pet Safety (PetAutoSafety.com) is leading the way in discovering the best way to keep people and their pets safe while traveling. Their research is still in an early phase, with only two studies under their belt. Without prior data, it is hard to conclude what testing method will provide the most accurate information. The methods will surely be modified in the future, meaning we will be able to make more informed decisions regarding the safety of our dogs as time goes on.