The Center for Pet Safety, a non-profit, recently published their 2013 Dog Car Harness Safety Report. While it is really detailed - it is well worth the read when considering a harness for your dog while riding in the car. (Or you can just scroll down really quick to the end to see the results!).
I personally crate my dogs when we travel - but I have harnesses that I keep on hand as well...which I will now be replacing with a different brand after reading this study! They only tested those brands that had made claims in their advertising that their products were "crash tested" or other similar phrases. They partnered with Subaru to perform tests comparable to crash tests that are done on automobiles. Currently there are no safety guidelines or standards in place that manufacturers must follow for dog car harnesses.
The goal was to begin the process so that ultimately guidelines and safety standards can be set up and consumers can be confident when making a purchase that the product really lives up to its claims.
After all the tests, there was only one harness that performed well on all aspects of the test - the Sleepypod ClickIt Utility Harness. Crating works for me and I have a vehicle that will accommodate my crates and storage space for all my dog gear. When I purchased a new vehicle this year it was all based around which vehicles would allow me to carry my two larger crates in the back and a third crate on the folded down back seat. I also wanted to be able to secure my crates with tie downs as well.
While crating isn't for everyone and every vehicle - I was really happy to see this study and the direction the Center for Pet Safety is trying to take with regard to safety standards and guidelines for harnesses. The top performing harness is at a price point of around $90, and significantly more than most harnesses out there. Knowing that this harness met the crash test guidelines justifies the price in my mind...and realizing that many of the harnesses that claimed to be "crash tested" had catastrophic failures and some didn't even make it to the actual crash test because they failed the preliminary test was an eye opener.
I like to think that I am becoming a better pet parent over the years. With our first two dogs Jazz and Nala...we travelled all the time with them lounging in the back seat and never had a problem - however we never were involved in an accident either. We travel about 35 weekends a year and a lot of it is with our dogs along for the ride. I realized when we got Biddy that for the safety (and sanity!) of all of us, I needed to put her in a crate in the car.
I was driving a Tahoe when she was a little puppy and I put her in the back seat thinking she would just "find her spot" and sit down like the other dogs. Well, that lasted about 2 seconds. She was (and still is) the ultimate wild child. On the first couple of outings she was still small enough that she couldn't reach the center console from the back seat. She could leap over the back seat into the cargo area, and then back up again, she could roll down the window and nearly jump out and this was all before we even got out of the neighborhood. But I still held out hope...a week or so later she was now big enough to reach the center console with her front paws while standing in the back seat. Now the battle had begun - me trying to drive with one hand and block her from coming up into the front seat with the other. The crate became a permanent fixture in the back from then on out.
I just got back from a long road trip with her and as I was driving along was really amazed at the number of dogs large and small that were traveling freely in either the front or back seat - some on the driver's lap. You so don't want to tell people how to raise their pets, and clearly they love them as they snuggle them up while driving down the road...and I just wanted to shout at them - Protect your dog!!! Buckle them up!! Put them in a tied-down crate!!! And until it happens to you it's never an issue.
Most accidents are more likely to occur close to home, when driving around town. My dogs are always going places...whether it is dog class, the park, downtown for coffee, the beach or a long trip so my crates always stay in the back ready to go. I hung up the phone today with our much loved pet sitter who also owns a Cavalier King Charles, Darcy. As we were talking she told me that Darcy and her husband were in a car accident at the beginning of the week and that while they were okay, Darcy was shaken up for a day or so from the accident. Thankfully the car that hit them was rolling to a stop and it wasn't a high impact crash - but still really shook her up as she was neither crated or buckled in.
I know what her Pet Sitter Holiday Gift is going to be .... P.S. - no live dogs were used in the study! Size and weight appropriate Dog Dummies were created for use in the study. Watch the videos on the Center for Pet Safety's website - you will want to make sure your pet is buckled up! How do you protect your pet when you take them on fun outings or long trips?