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My husband wanted to get a dog car seat that is elevated so our dog can look out the window while driving. Our dog is not a fan of being in the car for some reason and he always tries to look out the window whenever he has a chance. Therefore, my husband suggested that if we have an elevated booster seat for dogs, our dog doesn’t have to try to look out the window. (our dog is a Morkie so he is a small to medium size dog.) We decided to research for a car seat for dogs. We have been using a seat belt tether to connect our dog’s harness to the seat in case of sudden stops or car accidents. We thought this did the job of protecting our dog to be secured in the seat. We also thought getting a booster car seat for dogs may provide our dog more fun and comfort but we didn’t really consider how safe it is in case of an accident. I think we just assumed it would be safe. However, while I was researching for a dog car seat, I found that there was more to a car seat for dogs than just being elevated. I realized that a dog needs a proper safety restraint system just like a child does. Unlike a baby or a young child, there is no law that enforces a car seat for a dog. We just used a crate for our dog when he was a puppy then moved on to a seat belt tether but didn’t really think too seriously about what may happen in case of a car accident. This research made me realize there are more safety pre-cautions that I should consider while driving with our dog. In this post, I share with you what to look for when getting a dog car seat or car safety gear for dogs and what safe car restraints for dogs are available.
Why Do You Need A Car Safety Restraint For A Dog?
According to Melanie Monteiro in the PetMD article, a dog safety coach and author of “The Safe Dog Handbook”, in the event of a car crash at 50 mph, a 10-pound, unrestrained dog generates 500 pounds of projectile force. In a 30-mph crash, an 80-pound dog would become a 2,400-pound flying projectile. This means a dog can get injured severely without a seat belt protection. The flying dog can also injure the driver. Yet, it is easy to forget that there may be the possibility of getting into a car crash with a pet. Some people may assume it is safe to have a pet sit in the back seat without any restraints (or in their lap or in the front seat) while driving and they may not think too much about it. According to the 2018 survey conducted by the Volvo, 48% of pet owners in USA do not own any safety driving gear for their dogs. Currently, these states (click the link to see the states) in US require dogs be harnessed in the car. Most states do not have laws for a dog to be restrained in the car with a dog safety harness or in a carrier or a crate during transportation. However, pets including dogs need a proper car restraint system to be protected from a car crash. Roaming pets can also be a distraction to the driver. A nervous puppy may want to stay on the driver’s lap while driving, a dog may fall from a seat or do something to get attention from a dog owner.
What Type of Dog Car Safety Restraints Are Available?
Before finding out which dog car safety restraints are safer choices, let’s take a look at what type of pet car safety restraints are available.
- Dog Car Safety Harnesses: The harness wraps around the dog’s body (chest, back, and neck) but does not go around a dog’s neck like a collar. Therefore, when the harness is pulled, it doesn’t pull the dog’s neck area only and minimizes force along the neck. Some dog car safety harnesses are made to be attached to a car’s existing seatbelt strap by the seatbelt going through the safety harness. Many safety harnesses, on the other hand, come with an extension tether (or dog seat belt) to be connected to a car’s seat belt slot and the harness.
- Crates & Carriers: A dog can stay in a carrier or a crate and a carrier or a crate can be secured in the car. A dog carrier can be placed in the back seat of a car to be connected to the car’s seat belt. A dog crate can be secured in the back of the car or secured to a seat. The idea is for a pet to stay in a carrier or crate with a door closed and that carrier or crate being securely attached to the car so the carrier or the crate doesn’t move around or fly out. Depending on a crate’s material, the crate may also protect a pet from outside force or objects.
- Dog Seat Belts (Dog Tethers): A dog seat belt gets attached to the back of a safety dog harness using a clip. The dog seat belt clicks directly into the seatbelt slot.
- Dog Car Booster Seats: A dog sits inside of a boxed seat. Some booster seats can be placed in the front seat with straps going around the seat. It stays elevated so small dogs can see outside from the seat. Many dog car booster seats come with a tether to connect to a dog’s harness. Many dog car booster seats are designed to wrap around the front seat of a car.
Which Dog Car Safety Restraints Protect The Best?
Unfortunately, there is no federal safety standards for dog car seats or harnesses. Therefore, there is no safety standard for pet restrain systems that manufacturers must follow or pass in a test. Once you research for dog car seats or car harnesses, you will see all types of car restraint systems for dogs. However, since there is no safety standards, consumers can not really know how effective those pet restraints are and if they really protect pets. Just because a dog booster seat is sold to be used in a car for a dog, that doesn’t mean it is made to protect a dog in a car crash.
Here are somethings I found during research of dog car seats or car safety restraints.
- A dog should be inside of a car, not outside while driving (not in the back of an open pickup truck). According to an article by King 5 News, the American Humane Association says it’s always best to restrain, contain or crate your pet in a vehicle for their safety and animals should always ride inside the vehicle.
- The front seat of a car is not a safe place for a dog. The airbag in the front seat can hurt the dog when in a crash. Some cars have on-off switches for the passenger air bags or a dog car booster seat being elevated may not add any weight for the passenger seat to trigger an airbag to open up in crash. However, if a dog car safety harness breaks, a dog can still fly out through the windshield in the front seat and hit other cars or objects.
- Avoid a dog from sitting with his/ her head out the window while you are driving because she/he can get hurt from debris, outside objects, etc. Dogs can also get sick by having cold air forced into their lungs.
- Distraction prevention and crash protection are not the same thing. A safety car restraint for dogs whether it is a crate, a car booster seat, a car safety harness or a carrier, it can prevent a dog from roaming around the car or distracting a driver. However, not all of them may protect a dog from a car crash. According to the Humane Society Of The United States, dog restraints such as dog seat belts are useful for preventing a dog from roaming around the car and being a distraction to the driver, but they haven’t been reliably shown to protect dogs during a crash.
- According to Center For Pet Safety (CPS), extension tethers and zipline-style products increase the risk of injury and as well as driver distraction. They said that dogs launch forward and snap back with the spine incurring the most damage. They also mentioned that reports of paralysis, blunt force trauma and in some cases the spine has been damaged so severely that the internal organs could no longer function and the dog had to be humanely euthanized. Therefore, CPS does not qualify safety harness restraint system(s) that are marketed or come with an extension tether or zipline-style product for their CPS Certification (a certification of safety for pet car restraint products). CPS says dogs that are not properly restrained can slip or fall into the passenger leg compartment and harnesses with extension tethers and zipline-style connections should be avoided.
- Dog car booster seats or dog barriers do not protect a dog from a car crash. The dog can still fly out of the seat and get injured severely. They are not designed or made to protect a pet from a car crash. According to the Center For Pet Safety, proper pet passenger restraints is critical for successful crash protection. Even for pet carriers or crates, that are not structurally built well or have insufficient connection strength can directly affect the safety of the pet.
- Don’t attach a car seat tether to a dog’s collar. Attach it to a safety harness only. If a car seat tether is attach to a dog collar, it can injure a dog since a collar would not property hold a dog. It can put a lot of force to the dog’s neck in car crash.
- Crates may be the best choice for a dog to be protected from a car crash out of all options. The Humane Society Of The United States, the safest way for your dog to travel in the car is in a crate that has been anchored to the vehicle using a seat belt or other secure means. On the other hand, majority of crates aren’t still safe either. Many plastic or wire crates can break and they won’t protect a dog in case of a car crash.
- There is no federal safety standards for dog car seats or harnesses and manufacturers of dog safety restraints are not required to test their products. Therefore, even some products say ‘crash tested’ restraint products may not be reliable. It is possible for manufacturers to follow their own standards for the crash test.
- Currently, the most reliable, reputable car crash test by the independent organization is done by the Center for Pet Safety (CPS). In my opinion, most reliable pet car safety restraints seem to be the Center For Pet Safety (CPS) certified dog safety harnesses, pet carriers, pet crates.
Who Is Center For Pet Safety (CPS)?
The Center For Pet Safety is a non-profit safety science organization dedicated to consumer and companion animal safety. They scientifically study pet products, travel conditions, examines testing practices as well as policies, procedures and regulations in the consumer interest to ensure the best possible chance of survival for the pets, reduce the risk of injury (and reduce the emotional and financial risk) to the human companion as well as limit the risk exposure to retailers. They have CPS Certification Program for pet car safety harnesses, crates and carriers. CPS Certification Program has rigorous testing and performance requirements and most products on the market cannot meet their requirements according to CPS. If the product doesn’t pass, the manufacturer then makes needed modifications until their product passes the crash test. For their pilot study, they used the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 213 for child restraint systems since there was no standardized testing for canine automotive restraints. The testing was conducted at MGA Research Corporation’s test facility. MGA Research also performs testing services for the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In their pilot study, harnesses they tested had a 100 percent failure rate. After more testings and studies, CPS published the CPS-001-014.01 Companion Animal Safety Harness Restraint System Test Protocol and Rating Guidelines. CPS testing includes a crash test which is a dynamic test of harnessed dogs in a simulated collision from a car traveling 30 miles per hour. You can check out crash test results for some brands here and see if safety restraints are effective in protecting the pet when a car is in crash. Some CPS certified products include dog car safety harnesses, pet carriers and crates.
Crash Tested Dog Car Harnesses
Here are some crash tested dog car harnesses, crash tested pet carriers, and a crash tested dog crate that are CPS certified.
Sleepypod Clickit Sport Bundle Edition – Crash Tested Dog Car Harness
The Sleepypod Clickit Sport dog car harness distributes and reduces damaging forces that can cause injury to a dog in an accident. In the crash test lab and in real life it has been proven to be one of the safest dog safety harnesses. No additional accessories or straps needed to connect this safety harness to the seatbelt in the rear seat of the vehicle. This dog car harness also can be used for walking.
Crash Tested: Crash tested And certified by the Center for Pet Safety for dogs from 18 to 90 pounds. Clickit Sport was rigorously tested to include the same dynamic crash testing that ensures the performance of child safety restraints. Clickit Sport is the only harness to earn safety certification and a five star rating from the Center for Pet Safety.
Material: Neoprene (Energy absorbing neoprene padding)
Crash Tested Dog Carriers
Sleepypod Atom Pet Carrier – Crash Tested Dog Carrier
Sleepypod Atom is a compact, multifunctional carrier and car seat. A buckle on both sides secures the carrier to the seat belt in the rear seat of the vehicle. It also fits beneath a wide range of airline seats. This mobile pet-bed, in-cabin airplane carrier and car seat fits cats up to 12 pounds / 5.5 kg and dogs up to 8 pounds / 3.5 kg.
Crash Tested: Crash tested and certified by the Center for Pet Safety for pets less than 12 pounds.
Material: Polyester, Nylon (Luggage grade nylon outside and Ultra Plush polyester inside.)
Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed, Carrier and Car Seat – Crash Tested Dog Carrier
This pet carrier is a mobile pet bed, a carrier and a car seat. It can fit pets up to 15 pounds. You can simply wrap the seat belt around the base of the Sleepypod and pull the shoulder belt through the top handle. The Sleepypod is designed for road trips and is not certified for use on commercial air planes. The Sleepypod Mini can be used both in the car and will easily fits under the seat on commercial airplanes. However, always check with your airline for their specific restrictions before flying).
Crash Tested: Crash tested and certified by the Center for Pet Safety for pets 15 pounds and under.
Material: Nylon and Polyester (luggage-grade nylon outside and ultra-plush polyester inside)
Sleepypod Air Carrier for Cats and Dogs – Crash Tested Dog Carrier
Sleepypod Air is a mobile pet bed, in-cabin airplane carrier and car seat. It fits pets up to 17-1/2-pound. Seatbelt strap on both sides allow Sleepypod Air to be safely secured in a car seat. This carrier meets all airline & TSA requirements. It fit in the space below most airline seats during the restricted times of takeoff and landing. Once the plane is in the air, the Sleepypod Air can be expanded to allow a pet the largest possible space below an airline seat.
Crash Tested: Crash tested and certified by the Center for Pet Safety for pets less than 18 pounds.
Material: Polyester, Nylon (Luggage grade nylon outside and Ultra Plush polyester inside)
Crash Tested Dog Crates
GUNNER G1 Kennel – Crash Tested Dog Crate
Crash Tested: All sizes of the G1™ kennel have been proven to save K9 lives in real accidents. The Small, Medium, and Intermediate sizes are 5 Star Crash Test certified by the Center For Pet Safety, with crash-tested straps.
Material: Durable Polyethylene, stainless steel hardware
Watching crash tests for dog car safety restraints was an eye opening experience. First, I never thought that a dog can fly out the seat so easily in collision. I never thought dog car safety restraints can easily break. Some dog safety restraints can actually be dangerous to dogs and injure them severely in a car crash. Just because dog safety restraints are made to be used in the car, that doesn’t mean they are safe. There is no federal standard for manufacturers to follow to ensure safety of the restraint products. Many dog car safety restraints are not tested to be safe and even some products that claim ‘crash tested’ may not protect a dog from a car crash. This research led me to choose safety restraint products only from crash tested & passed, CPS certified products. My husband and I realized that we have been using a wrong type of car safety restraint for our dog. Therefore, we have decided to switch to Sleepypod’s Clickit Sport safety harness. Although this is not an elevated dog booster seat that we were planning to get in the beginning, we feel much safer for our dog and hopefully our dog feels more comfortable with it in the car. It is possible that maybe our dog was nervous because he didn’t feel secure every time our car stopped or moved. We should have considered looking for a car safety restraint for dogs earlier. However, I am glad at least now we got to know about importance of car safety restraints for dogs and we are making a change now.
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