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Posted on Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 6 a.m.

Pet car safety restraints found to be less-than-effective in recent study

By Lorrie Shaw

Pets have become so imeshed in our everyday lives, and it's not uncommon to see a dog with his head peering out of an open window or, much to the dismay of many, riding in the back of a pick up truck.

With more willingness for so many people to try and keep their four-legged friends safe when partaking in activities alongside them, it wasn't long before pet product companies took notice. They've carved out a pretty nice niche in that area, with gear designed for plenty of different activities - seat belts and car harnesses included.

There's been much talk in recent months about the safety of pets while riding in vehicles, with one state, New Jersey, being a pioneer in making the push for a safety harness use law.

With so much focus on the idea, sales of vehicle restraints for pets have increased — but are these products as good an idea as they are touted to be?

One organization says not so fast.

Center for Pet Safety conducted a pilot study that suggests that the safety belts were not safe.

Lindsey Wolko, founder and chairman of the Center for Pet Safety says, "Saying that these products prevent your pet from becoming a projectile in an accident is a potentially misleading statement. In our pilot study, the harnesses tested failed to keep the dog from becoming a projectile in a standardized crash simulation."

Of four of the leading dog car harness brands, none held up in tests. All of them demonstrated that they either could lead to plausibly serious or fatal injuries for not only the canine but driver, too.

A 55-pound crash dummy dog was used to see how the seat belts would hold up in a collision at 30 miles per hour, patterning the same motor vehicle safety standards used to test child seats.

"With tens of millions of dogs traveling with their families every year, the use of pet travel safety restraints is at an all-time high," continues Wolko. "Safety advocates, travel associations and now law enforcement agencies are recommending or mandating the use of pet safety restraints."

There are no set standards when it comes to pet car restraints, so there isn't criteria by which to discern their success or failure.

One thing that is clear — and Wolko agrees — is that restraining a pet may help reduce incidents of distracted driving.

Watch a segment, including footage from the pilot study from the Today Show.

Do you use a harness or other restraint while your pet is riding in the vehicle?

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Lorrie Shaw leads the pets section for and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.



Fri, Jul 26, 2013 : 3:20 a.m.

Please feel free to delete if this is a duplicate - I posted but don't see my post: A few months since the news of all these car harnesses failing tests, a US company, Mighty Mite, is introducing a German harness into the US market called the "All Safe" . The Allsafe harness is supposed to have withstood the crash testing that these other harnesses failed. Mighty Mite posted a video of the crash testing on youtube. You can decide for yourselves:


Fri, Jul 26, 2013 : 3:17 a.m.

There's a new safety harness in the US market being carried by Mighty Mite Dog Gear. It's made in Germany and it's called the Allsafe Harness. The manufacturer claims it is the only harness in the USA that has passed safety testing. There's a video of it on youtube:


Wed, Jun 19, 2013 : 4:53 p.m.

Lorrie Shaw - no mention of Mim Variocages here? You should take a look at the European Safety cages - they are the way to go.


Fri, Jul 26, 2013 : 3:22 a.m.

Justjess, the Variocages are another product being sold by Mighty Mite. They are great but super expensive. I don't think most people can afford them. Take a look at the Allsafe harnesses.I agree a crate is better but the harnesses are about $100 whereas the crates are more like a $1000! The harnesses are certainly more most people's budgets!


Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 5:41 p.m.

There was one that Petco sells or at least use to sell, I am not sure if they still do or not, but this one we absolute adore. It is made by Mountain something, I am looking at an older one that says four paws. I love these harnesses. Dogs hate them because after you secure them into this harness there is a thick loop that secures them with the seat belt. Nice and snug. They can lay down but nothing else. I do recommend this to anyone who does get a dog.


Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 3:08 p.m.

My dogs Maya & Pierson wear dog seat belts. I don't think the brands they wear are the brands tested by this company. Keep in mind that this company only tested four brands and there are at least 10 or more brands out their that claim testing. DON'T JUDGE ALL DOG SEAT BELTS BY THIS ONE SMALL SAMPLE OF TESTING. I asked the manufacturers of my dogs' seat belts for their testing methods and results before I made my purchase. I agree with YpsiYapper about a crate that is strapped in. Sleepypod is a great brand for small pets and it has been crash tested. But Maya & Pierson are large dogs so a crate is out of the question. Maya uses the Kurgo Tru-Fit enhanced brand which has been enhanced with metal buckles. So even if Kurgo was a brand tested by this company, Kurgo's product has since been improved and crash tested. Pierson uses the Bergan brand. I keep the tether on it short so that he doesn't fly forward and hit the back of the seat. It fits him well and I don't think there is a concern for choking.


Wed, Jun 19, 2013 : 4:52 p.m.

Even the dog crate manufacturers who say their seatbelts have passed safety tests don't tell you exactly what tests were performed or how their seatbelts performed. As far as I know - there isn't a single dog seat belt on the market that has been put to the same tests as human seatbelts and that's because it's very expensive to be done and there's no US requirement for it. I'm waiting to hear more about the ALlsafe dog harnesses from Germany. I heard that they will be available in the US soon. They are supposed to be safer than what's presently in the US market.


Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 1:29 p.m.

I had to giggle when I imagined a soft-sided crate big enough for my 100 lb dog strapped into the front seat. He rides in the back of my SUV on a fully padded surface. It's quite plush actually. I wish someone would drive me around while I napped in the back. On longer rides he wears a regular harness connected by leash to a safety belt D-ring. It prevents him from getting into the front and hopefully will provide some protection if we were involved in an accident. I was intrigued by your article, Lorrie. I suspected that I was not providing the best protection but now know that the "best protection" hasn't been defined yet. Keep the information coming.


Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 12:11 p.m.

A soft crate, (not a hard plastic one with a chrome mesh door) in the front seat with the dog facing forward along with the area the air bag needs to deploy being kept clear is the safest way to travel with a dog or cat. The crate must be buckeled to the seat. If there is a crash the air bag will deploy, the dog or cat will have a soft screen in front of him or her and the airbag will most likely prevent the dog from breaking his neck in a frontal impact. Side impacts I can not say much for. Cars in general do not offer enough for a t-bone type of accident. I still believe a soft crate would be the better option in this scenario allowing the dog to be possibly protected by a side airbag as ling as it's deployment area is not blockd by the crate. Fido does not roam around the car and sleeps nice and comfy in his crate.


Wed, Jun 19, 2013 : 4:49 p.m.

YpsiYapper, I am sorry but I have to disagree with you. Soft crates are NOT safe. Most have zipper closures and those zippers are very weak. The vast majority of the soft crates I have seen are made in china with bad stitching and light weight zippers. If a dog is flung against one of these zipper dogs in a crash, more than likely the zipper will burst and the dog will be flung forward, right out of the crate and probably through the windshield. What's more, like the other poster wrote above, dogs belong in the BACK seat if you are going to use this method of containment - away from the air bags which can decapitate them. Truly the safest means of transporting pets right now is with the variocage. The cages were crash tested in Europe and are designed to crumple when a car is rearended. Here's youtube video showing how they work:


Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 5:43 p.m.

The animal should be in the backseat. More dogs have been severely injured or killed in airbag releases. All dogs need to stay in the backseat. Mine do.