New Study finds pet seatbelts don’t keep your dog safe

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As New Jersey considers making it the law to have your dog restrained in your car, a new study suggests that these dog seatbelts and harnesses may not offer much actual protection and can actually cause injury to your dog.

Lindsey Wolko founded the Center for Pet Safety in 2011 after she was in a car accident with her dog Maggie. At the time Maggie was restrained with a harness, but she suffered spinal injuries as a result of the accident. This is what inspired Wolko to test dog harnesses and restraints. “My dog was injured by one of these products and I felt that this was inexcusable, this should not happen.”

Wolko tested four of the strongest dog harnesses on the market using the same federal motor vehicle safety standards used to test child car seats. A 55 pound weighted test dog was used in a simulated 30-mile-per hour collision. Every single one of the harnesses failed.

The first harness provided too much slack allowing the dummy dog to fly forward and crash into the test bench. In the next two tests the harness snapped, sending the test dog flying through the air completely unrestrained. In the fourth test the worst result was found, as the harness slid up the test dog’s neck upon impact. “I don’t think that there’s any doubt that those dogs would have been seriously injured, if not fatally injured,” Wolko said.

The American Pets Products Association issued the following statement in response to Wolko’s test results, “There are an increasing number of reported accidents where a pet distracting the driver is being cited as the cause. A pet restraint that merely limits a pets access and distraction to the driver and limits its motion in the event of an accident is still an improvement over no restraint.”

Wolko doesn’t blame the manufacturers though. Since there are no existing safety standards in place, they didn’t do anything wrong. Wolko sees the lack of safety standards as the issue and is focusing on having that changed, “The pets that we love, they need real protection.”

19 thoughts on “New Study finds pet seatbelts don’t keep your dog safe”

    • Crates can get crushed in an accident. Which would either cause injury or kill your dog(s), but also your dog(s) is now loose and if they get out of your car can possible get killed from another car(s) or run off and get lost.

      Not to mention things flying through the air that can harm or kill your dog(s). Of course you have this with harnesses too.

      • I didn’t mean the crate flying around, I meant objects (glass, plastic, things from your car being hit, garbage, etc).

        If you are talking about the crates on the top of the page, people usually do not have crates like that in their car; unless in North America. So, they would be crushed.

  1. I’m not sure what the answer is. I normally crate my dogs in plastic crates (which I secure in the back seat) but as someone else mentioned a crate can get crushed. I remember seeing a story about one brand of metal crate that is extra sturdy and survived an accident keeping the pet safe and secure even though it was damaged.

    If a dog does get loose from a crate in an accident and tries to protect his/her owner, they risk being shot by law enforcement. Same thing if the dog is secured by a seat-belt threatens rescue personnel.

    This issues doesn’t affect just pets, humans can be crushed as well when they are belted in.

  2. The restraints are not necessarily to keep the dog safe, but to keep it in the vehicle and not ,in fear, running into traffic,– not, as someone else has brought up, attacking the people trying to help its owner. A wreck severe enough to snap restraints are going to leave adults and children hurt, also. Of course, we could wrap everyone in foam rubber. Notice, I said nothing about the driving, we all know some accidents are caused by road conditions, other drivers, etc.

    • Well, I mean, the tests performed in the story above were only at 30 mph. Unless a 55 lb. human passenger isn’t buckled in, 30 mph isn’t enough to severely injure someone (minus heart conditions, etc.). Seeing as how my dogs are 60 and 80 pounds, respectively, I’m definitely thinking twice about getting them harnesses to wear in the car. If these won’t protect them at 30 mph (ex. residential areas), then they definitely won’t help them at higher speeds.

  3. So what is the answer – now that I have already bought car safety belts for our three Rottweilers? We have a CRV, which is mighty small for transporting these three guys. The back seat isn’t really big enough for them and even with the back seat folded over to increase the cargo space, there’s not enough room for them to be really comfortable, let alone putting them in crates. I’m always worried about them when we transport them, alone or together.

  4. My simple response is to drive like your life depended on it……and your dogs AND your children…….and the person in the next lane……
    No easy solution. My pups are trained to lay in the deep well on the passenger side. It’s not perfect, but for now it’s working well, especially if i need to brake hard.

  5. The safest way to transport a dog is in a wire crate bolted to the floorboard. It will not break like plastic. Midwest makes a wire SUV crate that is designed so that two fit side-by-side between the wheel wells. They are 21″ wide. The length and height varies according to what you need. The person with 3 Rotties and a CRV might be in trouble. 🙂 But my Golden Retrievers fit just fine.


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