CHARLESTON, WV -
For many motorists in Charleston, WV and other areas wearing a seat belt is a habit. But many may not have considered doing the same thing for their dog.
There are several pet safety harnesses on the market. The Center for Pet Safety put them to the test.
Lindsey Wolko is the director of the Center for Pet Safety. After her dog Maggie was injured while in a safety harness she wanted to take a closer look at the products available. With the help of Subaru, she put several popular harnesses to the test to determine their crash worthiness.
She said if your pet is not secured the driver and passengers could also be at risk.
"It is very important for pet owners to use a safety device when traveling with their pet," Wolko said. "The pet industry has never been held accountable for the products they put on the market."
"As it is tested you can see the connection point failed on the product leaving the dog to be a full projectile," Wolko explained while showing one of many video results of harnesses that failed to even keep the dog in the seat.
The tests used weighted stuffed animals in crashes at 30 miles per hour.
Some of the products are careful to label the package alerting consumers that the harness is meant to be used as a means of preventing the dog from distracting the driver not necessarily to protect the dog in an accident.
In 2013 the Center for Pet Safety tested 7 brands of harnesses on dogs of different weights. Four of the brands failed so badly, the center warned that pets could go flying through the car in the event of an accident.
The Sleepy Pod Click it 3 point harness was called a Top Performer.
"There is no oversight for the industry for these types of products and manufacturers don't have to test these products before they bring them to market," Wolko said. "It is just very disturbing once you get into it."
Wolko said wire pet crates do not perform much better than the safety harnesses. She provided a test video of a stuffed dog in a crate in a crash at 30 miles per hour. She said the crate was destroyed even at the slow speed.
So where does that leave pet owners that don't want to leave their pets at home?
The Center for Pet Safety said if pet owners are shopping for a car safety harness they should avoid extensions and zip line style products.
The group also recommends training a dog to sit comfortably in the harness.
Wolko said consumers should also look for products that will share their crash test video, proving that they can prevent pets from launching off the seat.
The American Pet Products Association is a large trade association for pet product manufacturers. President and CEO Bob Vetere said "without having been directly involved in the testing process or selection process conducted by a third party non-profit organization, we can't comment comment on specifics but we can say that we back pet harnesses and car safety restraints as a mean of preventing or minimizing driver distraction which prevents accidents harming both pets and people."
The President of Government Affair and General Counsel for the American Pet Products Association added, "our members are always interested in maximizing the safety of their products and conduct vigorous testing including on pet vehicle restraints. In addition, industry wide standards are often favored by manufacturers, since they create a level playing field for all producers to meet."