Don’t forget to buckle up your pets!

Safety Belts: not just for humans anymore.

“Do you want to go for a ride in the car?” How many of us have said that to our dog(s)?  With warmer weather ensuing, this phrase will be used more frequently, but are we and not to mention our pets really safe when we take our dog for a ride?

According to a AAA survey, nearly six in 10 (56 percent) respondents have driven with their dog at least once a month in the past year, however, many participate in behaviors that take their attention away from the road with the most common activity being petting their dog (52 percent). Nearly one-quarter (23 percent) have used their hands or arms to hold their dog in place while applying brakes, and 19 percent have used their hands or arms to keep their dog from climbing into the front seat—creating a situation where they remove at least one hand from the steering wheel.

Other distracting behaviors drivers admitted to include: reaching into the back seat to interact with their dog (18 percent), allowing their dog to sit in their lap or holding their dog (17 percent), giving food or treats (13 percent) and 3 percent have taken a photo of their dog while driving. These behaviors can distract the driver and increase the risk of a crash. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that looking away from the road for only two seconds doubles your risk of being in a crash.  So what if there is a crash?

What about a safety belt?

In the same AAA study, eighty-three percent of respondents acknowledge that an unrestrained dog in a moving car can be dangerous, but only 16 percent currently use a pet safety belt.   “Drivers should use a pet restraint system for your dog every time their pet is in the vehicle,” said Jennifer Huebner-Davidson, AAA National, Traffic Safety Programs manager.  A pet safety belt, will not only limit distractions, but also protect you, your pet and other passengers in the event of a crash or sudden stop.  Other benefits of a pet safety belt is that is keep your canine in the car.   What many of us do not anticipate is that every dog likes to hang their head out the window on a warm summer day, however, not all know to stay in the vehicle.  Many pets are treated by Veterinarians for road rash, de-gloving injuries and broken bones from leaping out the window of a moving vehicle.

What is the best safety belt?

To prevent driver distraction and unnecessary injury to our pets, all pets should wear a safety belt, however, according to Lindsey Wolko, founder and CEO of the Center for Pet Safety, “All dog seat belts are not created equal.”  That is when Wolko started to look into safety options and that’s where Subaru came in.

Executives found that two-thirds of its drivers own dogs (AAA reports that nearly 90% of U.S. pet owners say they travel with their pets)–so canine safety is particularly important to the brand. And after seeing Wolko talk about the crash test failures on morning talk shows, the automaker commissioned a full CPS report that tested belts for small, medium and large dogs in simulated crashes.

“The thing people don’t think about is that [having a dog in the car] is like carrying an 80 pound sack of spuds behind your seat,” said Michael McHale, director of communications at Subaru of America. AAA says that a 10-pound unrestrained dog in a car traveling 30 miles an hour will exert 300 pounds of force during a crash.

The safety harness results weren’t great.  The report revealed, that four of the seven brands tested had “catastrophic failure” during a crash, which CPS defines as allowing the dog to become a projectile or release from the restraint. Only Sleepypod’s Clickit Utility Harness consistently kept dogs from launching off the seat; it was the only restraint deemed to offer substantial protection to all passengers including the dog.

Subaru and CPS enlisted MGA Research Corporation, an independent lab often contracted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to study commonly available pet safety harnesses, to compile the report.  CPS recreated the same crash tests used to rate child safety products.

Sleepypod’s Clickit Utility Harness similar in concept to the three-point seatbelt federally required in all vehicles. Straps enclosed in Clickit Utility’s broad, padded vest hug the upper torso of a dog to absorb forward movement, while belts anchor the lower torso and reduce forward and lateral movement. The three-point design that secures the dog in its space diminishes the opportunity for collision with parts of the vehicle and passengers, and reduces the chance for traumatic injuries that can be associated with one-point dog safety harness designs that can catapult a dog’s upper or lower torso forward into front seats, passengers and windows.

Walko stats, “It’s so intuitive for us to just reach over and strap a seat belt on, but people don’t think about using these products for their pets,” but “It’s incredibly important.”

Subaru will be donating three of the Sleepypod’s Clickit Safety Harnesses  for a drawing at Vet Partners Pet Hospital Grand Opening Saturday, May 16th from 10 am-4 pm. (3505 Vicksburg Lane #300, Plymouth, MN 55447).

Come and check out the new Hospital, learn about Subaru’s pet friendly vehicles and enter your pet to win a Safety Harness, so there is no hesitation to go for, “a ride in the car” this summer!


Dog Safety with Subaru: Sleepypod’s Clickit Utility Harness by Dr. Angela Woodward Vet Partners Pet Hospital-Plymouth


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