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If you’re feeling lost when it comes to pet travel and pet travel products, you’re not alone. When I first started researching this story, I quickly realized there simply are not a lot of resources for pet parents looking to travel with their dogs. But fear not. We’ve put together this guide to help you.
The most official resource out there? The Center for Pet Safety. Founded in 2011, The Center for Pet Safety, or CPS, is a nonprofit that crash tests and certifies pet travel products. Lindsey Wolko, CPS founder and CEO, described her organization as a cross between Consumer Reports and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
A pet owner herself, Lindsey founded the organization after her dog Maggie was injured in a car accident. Maggie’s harness failed her. Lindsey said that when she thinks of the incident, it calls her back to action and reminds her why she does this work.
“We’re not making any money in this effort,” she said. “We’re a poor little non- profit organization trying to do the right thing for pet owners. We have no agenda other than to help pet owners.”
Discover these tried and true tips from Lindsey and other car travel experts you can use next time you hit the road with your furry friend.
The Center for Pet Safety crash tests products — the organization has tested hundreds — and the top performers set the bar for the industry, which is largely unregulated, according to CPS. The organization then publish- es the safety standards. If the manufacturer voluntarily complies with that standard, their products are CPS certified.
Products that are CPS certified have the nonprofit’s logo. Pet parents can reach out to CPS if they have specific questions they’d like addressed.
“Those are the safest products on the market,” said Lindsey Wolko, CPS founder and CEO. “Right now, all we can say is that it will give your pet the best possible chance of survival.”
The program is voluntary, and CPS anticipates other brands vying for certification in 2017.
The following products recently received a 5-star crash test rating:
Lindsey advised that car barriers do not pre- vent ejection or escape in the case of a crash. CPS has also tested wire crates and, in its opinion, they should be considered “distraction prevention devices.” (See study on CPS website.) As for pet travel seats, CPS advised against them last year largely because of the “poor connection quality and that some brands were recommend- ing connection to the dog’s collar or walking harness.” Some brands are working on development to improve those items, and CPS will revisit the pet travel seat testing in the future.
NOTE: At this time CPS only certified harnesses for dogs who weigh up to 90 pounds.
One car brand comes out on top when it comes to making vehicles ideal for traveling with dogs: Subaru. “We love the Subaru products because they do think about the dog as the passenger,” Lindsey said. (Full disclosure: Subaru sponsored CPS testing in 2013 and 2015.)
Brian Moody, the executive editor of online auto marketplace Autotrader, also recommends Subaru to pet owners.
Other car tips: He suggested searching for cars that have enough cargo space to accommodate a crate. His organization recommends SUVs, station wagons, and sport utility vehicles. Two seaters are a no-go here.
When it comes to specific makes and models, Brian recom- mended the following:
Jennifer Burklow, a copy editor with Cars.com who covers pet travel safety for the online auto marketplace, suggested that pet owners looking to crate their dogs buy cars with the metal hooks or anchor points attached to the back of the car so you can properly secure the crate. The industry term for this is “strength-rated cargo tie-down.”
Try searching for a car that makes it easy for the dogs to get in and out. “Low jump-in heights at the back of the vehicle, especially if you’re getting an SUV,” Jennifer said. “If it’s really high off the ground, that becomes an issue as dogs get older.”
Jennifer also recommended getting a car with a back door that opens to at least 180 degrees. That will make it easier for you to get a crate in the vehicle or use a ramp to help your dog get in and out of the car.
“Take your crates with and see if they’ll fit,” she said. Feel free to bring your harness to ensure those will work with the model you’re considering.
Lindsey said that seats that fold flat will give crate users the most stability and space.
Lindsey and Brian told us to search for cars that have air vents in the cargo area to ensure your dog is comfortable.
If you’re not in the market for a new car, don’t fret.
“Most cars can be outfitted in such a way to make it somewhat safe,” Brian said.