I’ve recently been looking for a method of safely transporting our dog in our campervan. The key word in that sentence is safely, by which I mean “in a manner which does not, in the event of a collision, result in any injury to (primarily) the occupants or (secondarily) the dog”.
This is important for any number of reasons, including:
- Untethered dogs represent a serious risk to human passengers in the event of a crash, as sudden deceleration turns them into weighty projectiles flying through the car. RoSPA state that “At 30 mph a 22.5 kg (50lb) border collie would be thrown forward with a force equivalent to almost nine 12-stone men“.
- Clearly your dog is also at serious risk of injury in the event of a crash. To most people that would be heartbreaking enough, but while there’s no legal framework around this in the UK, other countries apparently have fines and custodial sentences for injuring dogs through lack of restraint.
- Dogs wandering around the car are a distraction to the driver – a study by Volvo found that American drivers in cars containing unrestrained dogs carried out over twice as many ‘unsafe driving behaviours’ as those whose dogs were restrained.
- Rule 57 of the Highway Code states that dogs should be “suitably restrained”. (No, not all of the Rules are technically law, but the Code does also mention that “Although failure to comply with […] rules of the Code will not, in itself, cause a person to be prosecuted, The Highway Code may be used in evidence in any court proceedings under the Traffic Acts (see The road user and the law) to establish liability.“).
Research suggests that 72% of dog owners in the UK restrain their pets when travelling in cars. What concerned me in my search was the quality and robustness of the equipment being used to do so – I could restrain our dog with a shoelace, but it would provide absolutely no protection for either of us in a collision. There is lots of restraint advice available from respectable bodies including RoSPA, RAC, Dogs Trust, and the RSPCA, but none of it mentions the relevance of crash-testing of equipment – kudos to PDSA for breaking the mould and including it in their guidance.
The root issue here is that there is no UK legislation setting out minimum standards which must be met for animal restraint equipment in cars. So you could make something out of liquorice and sell it as a “safety” device. There’s nothing statutory in the US either, but the Center for Pet Safety, a “registered 501(c)(3) non-profit safety science organization” has a voluntary certification scheme which manufacturers can submit to. The CPS has also done its own independent testing of equipment from various manufacturers, i.e. not at the request of the manufacturers. There are other bodies doing testing, but the CPS seem to have the widest range of tested equipment, and are quite open about their protocol and results.
A Side Note – Fixing Points
The information below relates to crates and harnesses. What it does not address in detail is the fixing points, i.e. how those crates and harnesses are attached to the vehicle to ensure that they don’t just become even bigger, heavier projectiles in the event of a collision. Some attach directly to seatbelts, some attach to ISOFIX child seat points, and some will need to be lashed to the floor. You should always consider the weakest link in the chain, and crash testing often highlights deficiencies in attachment points or straps before the main body of a cage or harness has chance to fail. As an example, we purchased a lashing point for the floor rails in our VW California, but any system is only as strong as the weakest link, so there’s no point attaching to this with an accessory karabiner that will disintegrate if exposed to a strong breeze.
Not Crash Tested
A number of brands popular in the UK do not claim that any kind of crash testing has been carried out on their products. Note that this doesn’t mean they’ll definitely fall apart in a collision, just that the likelihood of that result has never been tested. A popular theme seems to be that any quick Google search will find numerous third-party articles/blogs/reviews claiming that many of these products have been crash tested – all without any links or other evidence to back the claim up.
This is the good stuff – products which have been put through testing and – in this section at least – have passed! Remember that anyone can submit their product for testing, and could potentially then market it as “crash tested”, even if it failed! The other thing to consider is that tests are only tests – I note that almost all the testing involves a dog sitting on a seat. Our dog is very lazy, and will lie down at any available opportunity. The testing may therefore not be entirely representative, but my approach is to minimise the risk as much as possible – you’ll never eliminate it entirely.
Gunner Kennel G1
The Gunner Kennel G1 is the only CPS-certified hard (plastic or metal) crate, and their website has a dedicated page referencing CPS testing and other safety-related information. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be available for purchase in the UK.
Apparently 4Pets were previously known as Proline. They lead with certification on their front page, but this time it’s from inspection and certification company TÜV Süd. I can’t find details of exactly which certification programme they’ve been through, but the details on the product page list a heck of a lot more than just crash testing.
The Ruffwear Load Up harness is specifically singled out by the manufacturer as being designed for vehicle travel. They have an entire article describing the testing process, including videos of the ‘crashes’. Interestingly, the article explicitly points out that they are not CPS certified because their own testing was completed before the CPS ever undertook any of their testing or developed a protocol. They also highlight that they would likely not get CPS certification for Medium and Large size harnesses, based on the ‘excursion limits’, i.e. the amount the dog moves. This suggests that failure of the harness and attachment point – a common factor in so many other tests – would not be an issue.
The EzyDog Drive harness is available at Pets at Home, and the company have a page showing the videos of testing they commissioned in Australia (where they are based). There are no detailed technical write-ups, or external third-party testing, but they’re certainly a step ahead of a lot of manufacturers.
Petego Jet Set
Bought by Worldwise in 2018, Petego don’t seem to have a functioning website. You can still buy their Jet Set Forma carrier, which only passed CPS testing when using the additional ISOFIX accessory – it failed the tests without.
ZuGoPet Rocketeer – Another CPS certified harness, albeit one which holds the dog at a very strange angle! Only suitable for dogs weighing less than 11.5 kg (25 lb). Definitely looks safe, but I know our dog wouldn’t tolerate it even if he weren’t too big anyway.