9 Investigates

INVESTIGATES: Hundreds of products fail four-legged crash dummies tests

WASHINGTON — Action News Jax toured the facility where hundreds of pet safety products failed crash tests. The Center for Pet Safety (CPS) tested harnesses, carriers, and crates to see if they keep dogs safe during a car crash.

It’s a pet owner’s nightmare; your dog jumps out a car window onto the road. Lindsey Wolko is the founder of the Center for Pet Safety just outside Washington D.C. She’s seen hundreds of videos of dogs accidentally falling onto the road after hanging out of the car window.


Unfortunately, a nightmare scenario, happened to Wolko while her dog, Maggie, was riding with her in the car. Wolko had stopped by a local big box pet retail outlet and bought a harness for Maggie.

“It said it would protect her and me if we were in a crash,” she explained.

Wolko had to slam on the brakes to avoid a crash while her dog Maggie was in the car.

“All I heard was screaming,” Wolko said. “The only thing that kept her from breaking her neck was she got tangled in the extension component of the harness. But otherwise, she would have gone headfirst into the back of the front seat of vehicle.” Despite major injuries, Maggie survived.

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It was Wolko’s personal experience on the road that led her to start testing pet safety products and create CPS.

“The industry is so highly unregulated,” Wolko said. “It literally is the wild, wild west.”

She said deadly accidents in the car with your pets are highly preventable. Wolko has the crash test data to back it up. Action News Jax traveled to Washington D.C. to go inside the testing facility to find out how the pet safety crash tests are done. Since 2011, CPS has tested close to 400 car restraint products for pets including harnesses, travel carriers, and crates.

CPS has multiple crash test “dog dummies” that are appropriately weighted for different sizes of dogs. They have a fur exterior and facial features, like the exterior of a stuffed animal.

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Wolko said that’s the point: “We want people to look at the stuffed animals when they watch the crash test footage and visualize their pet.”

It grabs your attention. The idea is the same. Just as you would put a human crash dummy through a car test, you load up the crash “dog dummy” and put it through its own tests using the pet safety product. Most of the products failed, and some completely fell apart.

Action News Jax contacted the USDA, the Food and Drug Administration, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Not one agency oversees pet safety travel products.

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Pet owners we talked with in Jacksonville had no idea some of these products could be dangerous.

“I never think that she’s going to jump out of the window like that,” Jacksonville dog owner Julieann Rowen said. “That scares me to death.”

Many pet owners told us they read reviews and looked at product ratings, but they don’t actually look for a dog safety label.

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Wolko said pet owners often buy into the marketing of a product that doesn’t have testing to back up the company’s claims.

Wolko said many dog owners feel their dog is a part of their family, but Wolko said, “They [our pets] are no different in the eyes of the law, or the eyes of the federal government as a piece of luggage. That’s a challenge for us.”

“What we’re testing, this can actually happen to you,” Wolko said. “It’s horrifying when you see those things. ... We tell pet owners if it is not on our list, do not buy the product.”

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So which products passed? The Center for Pet Safety has given its seal of approval to 16 products since 2011.

Thirteen are currently on the market. CPS reviews the products regularly to make sure that changes to a product still has the same structural integrity.

You can see how each of these products did on the CPS website.

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The following products have been Independently Crash Test Certified by Center for Pet Safety:

Listed Alphabetically by Brand Name

Safety Harnesses:

Pet Travel Carriers:

Travel Crates:

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