Pro­tect your pooch

How to keep pets com­fort­able and safe in the car

Herald Sun - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE - CRAIG DUFF

ASK any owner and they’ll say their dog is part of the fam­ily — yet most have no idea how to en­sure the pet’s com­fort on car trips and sur­vival in an ac­ci­dent.

We buckle up, check our kids’ re­straints are prop­erly fas­tened and then let the pooch wan­der around the cabin or in the tray with­out pro­tec­tion.

And pets need pro­tec­tion in a car crash, as they are sub­ject to the same de­cel­er­a­tion as hu­man oc­cu­pants.

More than 5000 pets are hurt or killed in crashes in Aus­tralia each year. Spinal and leg in­juries, the most com­mon, are painful, long-term mat­ters that are ex­pen­sive to treat.

Re­strain­ing your beloved pooch in the first place is a far

less costly ex­er­cise, one that could spare you not just from vet­eri­nary bills but from traf­fic fines. It is il­le­gal for a pet to not be prop­erly re­strained — and that ab­so­lutely means not sit­ting on the driver’s lap.

Fines and de­merit points ap­ply and the con­se­quences can in­clude jail time un­der the pre­ven­tion of cru­elty to an­i­mals

pro­vi­sions if your pet is in­jured or hurts some­one else dur­ing a col­li­sion.

There is no of­fi­cial stan­dard for pet re­straints, mean­ing the qual­ity of prod­ucts varies from rub­bish to ro­bust.

The NRMA high­lighted the prob­lem in 2013 when it tested 25 dog re­straints. Only two, the Pu­rina Roadie and Sleep­y­pod

Clickit, re­strained the an­i­mal in both a sim­u­lated 20km/h crash and a “drop” test at 35km/h.

NRMA en­gi­neers iden­ti­fied the plas­tic buck­les, sim­i­lar to those found on back­packs, as the weak link in the other prod­ucts.

These buck­les gave way when the test dummy an­i­mal’s weight abruptly hit them,

mak­ing them use­less in the event of a crash.

NRMA In­sur­ance head of re­search Robert McDon­ald says test­ing shows an ef­fec­tive har­ness is crit­i­cal.

“Most peo­ple us­ing the com­monly avail­able har­nesses are do­ing so in a gen­uine at­tempt to keep their pets safe,” he says. “How­ever our test­ing has un­for­tu­nately shown that most har­nesses, while ef­fec­tive at re­strain­ing pets, are not safety de­vices and do lit­tle to pre­vent in­jury in a com­mon low-speed crash.”

Sim­i­lar re­sults have been seen over­seas. Since 2013 in the US, the Cen­tre for Pet Safety has teamed with Subaru of Amer­ica to test har­nesses and to date has ap­proved only the Sleep­y­pod as a safety re­straint.

There are three ba­sic types of in-car re­straint: har­ness, car­rier and cage.

The first is ef­fec­tively a seat belt for dogs and is usu­ally se­cured to the child seat mount­ing points or the car seat belt. Prices range from $20$150 de­pend­ing on the size.

Never carry your pet in the front seat — the pas­sen­ger’s airbag isn’t go­ing to do it a lot of good if you do have a crash.

Car­ri­ers are a booster seat for dogs and also fas­ten to the car’s seat belt. Test­ing has shown most turn into an ad­di­tional pro­jec­tile in the event of a crash, typ­i­cally be­cause of buckle fail­ure.

Crates are more se­cure than a cargo bar­rier and are a smart op­tion if you have a cou­ple of dogs to trans­port. They need to be bolted to the floor or se­cured to the an­chor­age points in the cargo area.


Car brands have long recog­nised peo­ple travel with their pets but un­til re­cently haven’t tried to mar­ket prod­ucts, or ve­hi­cles, specif­i­cally for pet own­ers, beyond a set of seat cov­ers, floor mats and a cargo bar­rier.

Audi was one of the first to tai­lor ac­ces­sories for four­legged com­pan­ions and has a rear seat pro­tec­tive cover at $311 and an Audi-branded har­ness (no­tably, plas­tic buck­les are ab­sent) for $153.

The Bavar­i­ans have sim­i­lar prod­ucts to pro­tect both pets and cars. BMW’s rear seat pro­tec­tor sells for $260 and the load­ing sill mat (which flips out over the rear bumper of SUVs and wagons) is $145.

Skoda has its own dog har­ness for $160-$250 and the ac­ces­sories list in­cludes a rear seat pro­tec­tor.

Subaru like­wise sells rear seat pro­tec­tors ($451 fit­ted), along with branded dog col­lars, col­lapsi­ble bowls and chew toys. It puts the prospect of fang­ing a Subaru in a whole new light.

Over at Jaguar Land Rover, the fam­ily that dresses to­gether im­presses to­gether, which helps ex­plain the com­pany’s leather col­lar and leash with dog tag for $65 or the ce­ramic dog bowl for $28, both with the HUE 166 logo (re­call­ing the num­ber plate of the first Land Rover in 1948).

Crash-test dog­gies, top: US re­sults re­flect NRMA find­ings that plas­tic buck­les on har­nesses fail un­der an­i­mal’s weight in crashes. Above: Audi (left) and BMW ver­sions of pet and seat pro­tec­tion. Down, boy: The front seat is no place for dogs

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