Why a travel safety harness could save your dog’s life

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Keeping your pet safe while driving
WATCH: Consumer reporter Anne Drewa has details on a simple and inexpensive way to protect your pets while driving – Feb 25, 2016

We all know the value of wearing a seat belt, and securing your pet is no different.

Finding the right travel dog harness could save your pet’s life. Veterinarians say even a low-speed crash can cause an animal to suffer significant injuries if it’s not properly secured inside the vehicle.

Dog owner Elisha McCallum knows that fact all too well. Last month, McCallum lost her beloved Jack Russell Terrier, “Radar”, in a car accident. Radar was not wearing a safety harness and died instantly.

“Radar was not restrained or crated at all and I believe if she had been restrained in some way, this could have been prevented,” says McCallum.

Pet owners are not required by law to use a safety harness, but U.S.-based groups like the Center for Pet Safety are trying to change that. In 2013, the CPS teamed up with Subaru to test a number of pet travel harnesses. The results were disturbing.

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“What we learned was that the extension tethers and zip-line-style products that come with many of these products are dangerous. They could actually increase the risk of injury to the people in the vehicle. They can increase the risk of injury to the pet,” says founder and CEO of the Center for Pet Safety Lindsey Wolko.

The CPS also says many manufacturers of pet harnesses do testing, but can make all sorts of claims.

“They may have failed crash testing and they’ll still say that they have crash tested their product,” says Wolko.

So how do you choose the right harness? Dr. Adrian Walton from the Dewdney Animal Hospital says, “Take a close look at the box. They will actually mention things like crash testing, but some of them will say strength testing, which is really when they put a harness into a machine and pull on it to see when it failed.”

Also, make sure the harness fits properly. Your dog should be able to stand, sit, and lay down comfortably. However, it should not be too loose. “When you secure your pet inside the vehicle, ensure the distance between the seatbelt and harness is as minimal as possible,” says Dr. Walton.

The Center For Pet Safety recommends before purchasing a harness, weigh your dog and talk to the manufacturer to find out what kind of due diligence they’ve completed.

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“If they’ve crash tested their products, how did they crash test it?” Wolko asks. “What standard did they use? If they tell you they’ve crash tested, but they’ve only tested one size, that’s a major red flag.”

For more information, visit the Center for Pet Safety’s website.

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