How Safe Are Car-Seat Harnesses for Your Dog?

By ABC News

Apr 10, 2014 1:34pm

Dogs are man’s best friend and many are our travel buddies. And to keep them safe while riding shotgun, many travel experts recommend products such as harnesses and crates.

Should you do it?

“GMA” Investigates has learned that some so-called safety products may not provide your pet all the protection as advertised.

While many manufacturers claim to test their products, there are no uniform performance standards for pet travel safety products.

In a first-of-its-kind study, the Center for Pet Safety, in partnership with Subaru of America, has been testing dog harnesses.

“If you are in an accident, there is no guarantee the product will hold up to it,” said Lindsey Wolko, the founder for the Center for Pet Safety.

At the same facility used by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the safety center tested seven popular dog harnesses using a specially designed weighted test dog. Simulating a collision at 60 mph, it found that only two brands provided adequate protection.

Many of the others resulted in catastrophic failure: one harness tore, another broke and, in the worst case, one came off completely, sending the test dog spinning through the air.

It’s estimated that 84 percent of dog owners drive with their dogs in the car.

Eugene and Chris Kattak thought their two dogs, Mojo and Mike, were safe when they were strapped in the back with a seat-belt attachment, but Eugene Kattak was broadsided in October while driving with the dogs. The attachment failed, sending the dogs flying.

While Mike was fine, Mojo suffered a spinal injury and was paralyzed on his left side.

“I was devastated,” Chris Kattak said. “He was so helpless. He was just laying in the crate and he couldn’t do anything.”

The Center for Pet Safety says it’s not just harnesses that fail.

A never-before-seen video obtained exclusively by “GMA” Investigates shows the center’s first-ever crash test of a wire dog crate. The results were devastating. “The dog would not have survived,” Wolko said.

In a statement, the American Pet Products Association says it “does not have a formal position on the CPS report,” but “supports the effort to improve and enhance pet safety.

As for Mojo, his paralysis turned out to be temporary. With physical therapy twice per week, he’s learning to walk again. The Kattaks, however, are still healing.

“I was angry because you start out with the intent to get something to make your pet safe,” Eugene Kattak said.

So should you or shouldn’t you? Even though a lot of improvements are needed when it comes to animal safety, the Center for Pet Safety said you should. It noted that in the event of an accident, restraining your dog in the car keeps the animal from becoming a heavy projectile that could harm human passengers.

The organization says the top-performing product in its study was Sleepypod’s Clickit utility harness.

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