Sleepypod harnesses in back seat of Subaru Forester ・ Photo by TJ Keon
About general pet travel... Years ago, children used to ride sitting on modified lawn chairs in cars. Yes, it’s true! Fast forward to now, and child seat design has come a long way. More significantly, the engineering of those designs must meet U.S. legal requirements. The Center for Pet Safety (CPS) is working to do the same thing for pet travel products. Pet travel products have been promoted for years by manufacturers as tools to keep your pet safe, but there were no safety standards and most brands had never tested their products. Unfortunately, until CPS, no one ever scientifically evaluated pet travel harnesses, crates, carriers and pet travel seats to determine what they really need to do to protect vehicle occupants. Thanks to Subaru of America’s sponsorship of our studies, CPS has spent the last several years testing pet travel products, and we have learned a lot. Our friends Blossom and Jasper were very comfortable in the Sleepypod Clickit Utility and Clickit Sport harnesses, traveling in our demonstration vehicle, the 2015 Subaru Forester.
Written by: Lindsey Wolko, Founder, Center for Pet Safety
Working with notable passenger safety experts, and funded by Subaru, Center for Pet Safety has completed initial validations of pet travel product crash performance. We evaluate the products on what they can do, and then conduct a thorough analysis of what they should do based on the returned data. The Top Performers named in our testing are those products that outperform all others. The goal is simple: Understand what a pet travel tool should do to protect the lives of passengers while giving the pet the best possible chance of survival in a crash. The Top Performing products set the bar for test performance and illustrate, beyond all other products in the class, what comes closest to ideal pet product performance in a standardized crash testing.
The PetMate Compass Carrier with PetBuckle Kennel Restraint is shown in the test crash study, funded by Subaru.
Photo by Center for Pet Safety
In 2013 the Sleepypod Clickit Utility outperformed all other brands and was named the Top Performing harness in the Center for Pet Safety Study. It was the only harness that consistently restrained multiple sizes of test dogs. It was also the first harness product to use the additional support of the child seat LATCH anchors to help restrain the dog. The Clickit Utility’s outstanding performance set the bar for the Center for Pet Safety's Harness Crashworthiness Test Protocol and Ratings Guidelines published in 2014.
As Blossom demonstrates in the photo above in the 2015 Subaru Forester, the Sleepypod Clickit Utility is a substantial, well-designed, high-quality harness.
Photo by TJ Keon
In 2014, Center for Pet Safety published the first standard for pet travel harnesses, and Sleepypod was the first manufacturer to voluntarily comply with the published standard. In the summer of 2014, CPS independently tested the Sleepypod Clickit Sport Harness (a cousin to the Clickit Utility harness) as part of the Center for Pet Safety Certified program.
The certification program was designed with the pet owner in mind and is a voluntary program open to all harness manufacturers. The harness' crash test performance met the highest marks of the published standard and the Sleepypod Clickit Sport was awarded a 5 Star Crash Test Rating – the first ever awarded by CPS.
In the photo above, Rocky gets fitted into his Sleepypod Clickit Sport harness as he gets ready for a ride in the pet-friendly 2015 Subaru Outback.
Photo by TJ Keon
Sleepypod again? Does there seem to be a trend here?
In 2015, Center for Pet Safety conducted a study on pet travel carriers. Sleepypod’s due diligence shined through once again and the Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed with PPRS Handilock was name a study Top Performer. Using the seatbelt system to secure the reinforced pet carrier, this innovative pet travel product successfully retained the 15 lb. test dog and the carrier connections remained wholly connected during the test, ensuring the safety of vehicle passengers and giving the pet the best possible chance of survival in a crash.
In the photo above, Harley is trying out the colorful Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed in the 2016 Kia Sorento.
Photo by TJ Keon
PetEgo was selected for the 2015 Center for Pet Safety Carrier study due to their claims of crash testing. Their due diligence paid off. As Simon demonstrates in the 2015 Mazda6, the PetEgo Jet Set Forma Frame Carrier with ISOFIX-Latch Connection successfully retains a 15 lb. dog.
The 15 lb. test dog and the carrier’s connections remained wholly connected during the crash test. PetEgo chose to use the child seat Latch anchors for their primary connection point, and we anticipate other brands will follow their lead, especially for travel tools for the smaller dogs and cats.
For years, pet owners have been asking the Center for Pet Safety to conduct comparative crate testing to determine the best brands — the ones that will offer the best performance in a crash. In 2015, Subaru of America graciously sponsored the first Center for Pet Safety Crate Crashworthiness study. Using a simulated cargo area setup and reinforced cargo tie-downs, CPS tested crates that claimed “testing” and were valued under $1000. It was important to test the crates and the connections that came with them to determine, with all things being equal, which brand performs the best in standardized crash testing.
The test evidence overwhelmingly indicated that the Gunner Kennel G1 Intermediate with Strength Rated Anchor Straps outperformed all other brands tested. The Gunner Kennel’s rubber feet gripped the carpeting and the strength rated anchor straps prevented the product from hitting the simulated seatback fixture. The double latching door ensured the test dog was fully retained during the test and easily released after the test. It takes a tough crate to withstand CPS’s crash testing. Safely strapped into the rear cargo, pet model Goose was totally secure taking a ride in the pet-friendly Toyota 4Runner inside the Gunner Kennel G1.
(Pet owners should note that vehicle cargo area connection strength varies. Please review the cargo area connection advisory to learn more about connection limitations in vehicles.)
Pet Travel Seats are a popular option for pet owners to use with little dogs. They look comfy and some act as booster seats so your pup can look out the window and enjoy the ride. In 2015, the Center for Pet Safety took a first look at some popular models of pet travel seats. What we discovered was disturbing. Of the four models we examined, three brands called for the pet to be connected by the dog’s collar or walking harness. Collars and walking harnesses are not suitable connections for a vehicle safety restraint because they are not designed for in-vehicle use. Additionally, the collar/harness connections included with three of the four pet travel seats were made of fabric, plastics, and in one case, a very thin ring of wire; each indicated weakness. In a crash, depending on the trajectory, the weak connections could spell disaster for you or your pup. At this time, for little dogs, CPS recommends full containment in one of the 2015 Top Performing Carriers: the Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed with PPRS Handilock or the PetEgo Jet Set Forma Frame Carrier with ISOFIX-Latch Connection. Mani demonstrates the Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed as he gets ready for a ride in the 2015 Ford C-Max Energi.
Barriers can be a viable option for distraction prevention when traveling with a pet. As shown in our example above, Volvo offers an innovative pet barrier in the back of the Volvo XC60. Some barrier manufacturers even claim to have crash tested their product to ensure durability, but what happens to window glass in a crash? Glass shatters. Unfortunately, even crash tested barriers will not prevent ejection or escape through a broken window – depending on the trajectory and severity of the crash. Additionally, there are significant concerns about barriers that mount using tension (spring) rods. A sudden stop can dislodge them, and they can become a danger to everyone in the vehicle. At this time, Center for Pet Safety suggests pet owners consider the CPS Top Performers and CPS Certified options when selecting a pet travel product.
Photo by Volvo Cars