A driver stands on her brakes and her Portuguese Water Dog in the back seat becomes a 40-pound airborne projectile hurtling toward the windshield. While fictional, this all-too-common scenario plays out daily.
To improve the safety testing of restraints, harnesses and carriers, the Center for Pet Safety will offer its proprietary, instrumented and weighted crash test and static dog models for manufacturers’ evaluation of pet travel products.
“The test dogs are expensive yet necessary for manufacturers to gather data and evaluate the real-world, worst-case performance of their products,” says Lindsey Wolko, founder of the Center for Pet Safety.
The Washington, D.C., nonprofit research and advocacy organization reported May 15 that it will provide the models through licensing agreements.
In 2011, the organization safety-tested four popular dog harnesses using a 55-pound dog model and a crash speed of 30 mph. Because of a lack of test standards for pet restraints, the study relied on the criteria used to test child restraint systems.
How did the dog harnesses fare? They all failed.
At the time of the study, the Center for Pet Safety reported that many pet restraints and pet travel products weren’t being tested before they appeared on retail shelves. The organization now is partnering with Subaru of America Inc., based in Cherry Hill, N.J., to develop industry safety standards for pet restraints.
The buckling in of pets is not a legislative priority in many areas, but some states are looking at changes.
A 2010 survey by the American Automobile Association found that 20 percent of dog owners confessed to allowing their pets to sit on their laps while driving.
“We want to encourage pet product manufacturers to test their harnesses, crates and other travel equipment as part of their efforts to ensure that consumers and their pets are offered effective, measurable protection by these safety devices,” Wolko says.
Preventing a pet from flying into the dashboard is just half of the equation.
“Our work is as much about human safety as it is about pets,” Wolko noted. “If one of these pet safety devices fails in an accident, a human life may be in harm’s way.”