Subaru Wants To Put Teeth in Dog Crash-Test Standards

Just the Facts:
  • Subaru hopes to improve car safety for animals through its partnership with the Center for Pet Safety.
  • One goal of the initiative is to develop testing protocols and develop standards for in-vehicle pet restraints.
  • According to the Center for Pet Safety, none of the most popular pet restraints on the market passed its 30-mph crash tests.

CHERRY HILL, New Jersey — Subaru of America has announced that it is partnering with the Center for Pet Safety to make riding in vehicles safer for four-legged passengers.

Although there are numerous products on the market intended to restrain pets or otherwise ensure their safety during car rides, to date there have been no testing standards for such products and thus no way to substantiate manufacturers' claims. Subaru's new initiative will devise testing protocols, establish standards and publicize those products that perform best.

"The Center for Pet Safety conducted a pilot study which showed that the majority of pet safety restraints currently on the market do not provide acceptable protection in a crash situation," said Michael McHale, director of corporate communications for Subaru. "As many of our owners have dogs, we feel it's our responsibility to help them keep their pets as safe as possible when they journey with us."

That study used specially made crash-test doggies, weighing 55 pounds each, to determine the effectiveness of the four most popular brands of pet restraints in a 30-mph crash. Because of the lack of standards, testers relied on the federal motor vehicle safety standard applied to children's car seats.

Incredibly, according to the Center for Pet Safety Web site the study showed "a 100 percent failure rate. None of the harnesses were deemed safe enough to protect both the dog and the humans in the event of an accident."

Slow-motion videos revealed such problems as a low likelihood of survival for the pet, danger to humans when the animal becomes a missile in a crash and choking or other injury to the dog.

With funding from Subaru, the Center plans to develop standards that can be used by manufacturers to create products that are significantly more effective at ensuring the safety of pets while traveling.

Until that time, pet owners are advised to check manufacturers' Web sites for start-to-finish videos of their products' crash tests. It's also useful to know what weight of dog was used in testing, since some companies only test for smaller animals. Another important piece of data is the speed at which testing was conducted. If this information is not readily available online or elsewhere, the Center suggests contacting manufacturers directly to get it.

This new initiative is not Subaru's first association with man's best friend. Through the years the company has stressed the pet-friendliness of its vehicles in advertising and promotions. The company has also worked with a number of shelters and other organizations to promote animal welfare.

Subaru's innovative "Dog Tested, Dog Approved" campaign featured a series of ads that placed canines in humorous situations that resulted in them giving the pawprint of approval to the brand. Many of the ads ran during the irresistibly charming Puppy Bowl, shown annually on Super Bowl Sunday.

Continuing the theme, in 2011 Subaru launched its first Game Day Dog Walk, in which pet owners were asked to sign a pledge on the company's Facebook page to take their pooches for a walk on that day. In return owners received free "Doggie MVP Packs" that included stuffed toys, water bowls, Frisbees and engraved dog tags.

Edmunds says: While this may seem frivolous to some, properly restraining pets in cars also helps to protect their owners.