Canine Crash Studies Evaluate Crate and Carrier Safety

You’ve no doubt seen those dreadful car crash test videos, the ones that feature slow motion footage of what happens to human crash dummies during a head on collision. With financial support from Subaru of America, the Center for Pet Safety (CPS) has taken crash test studies to a whole new level. CPS has just released data on what they call their 2015 Carrier Crashworthiness Studies. This research was performed to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of various pet crates and carriers in the event of a car crash.

Who is the Center for Pet Safety?

CPS is a non-profit research and advocacy organization dedicated to companion animal and consumer safety. The organization uses scientific methods to assess a variety of pet products and establish safety criteria and test protocols. One of CPS’s goals is to measure whether or not products designed for pet safety actually provide protection consistent with manufacturers’ claims. By the way, CPS is not affiliated with the pet product industry.

Harness research
Canine crashworthiness studies are not unprecedented. In 2013, CPS conducted a Harness Crashworthiness Study in conjunction with Subaru of America and MGA Research Corporation, an independent national highway traffic safety administration contracted testing laboratory. Pet harnesses are the equivalent of seatbelts for people. Major differences in popular harness restraints were discovered. Several of the harnesses failed catastrophically in a way that could cause serious injury to both the pet and passengers within the vehicle.

2015 research goals

During a car accident, not only is an unrestrained pet at risk for injury, the animal can become a projectile capable of striking and injuring a human passenger. The same holds true for a carrier or crate that doesn’t remain fully secured at its connection points within the vehicle during a crash.

Many crate and carrier manufacturers report that their products are “tested,” “crash tested,” “offer crash protection,” or are designed “for use in a vehicle.” To date, there are no standardized test protocols in the United States that substantiate these claims.

The stated purposes of the 2015 crashworthiness studies included:

  • Independently evaluate the crate and carrier products that are associated with claims of “tested”, “crash-tested” or “crash protection.”
  • Examine the safety, structural integrity and crashworthiness of crates and carriers.
  • Examine carrier and crate connection options to help educate pet owners.
  • Collect performance data necessary to support a formal test protocol and ratings guidelines for pet travel crates.
  • Determine top performing crate and carrier brands.

Michael McHale, Subaru’s director of corporate communications described the purpose of his company’s research as follows:

We at Subaru recognize the importance of keeping the entire family safe on the road, including our beloved pets. Alongside Center for Pet Safety, we are proud to help lead the charge in identifying the best crates and carriers for pet lovers everywhere, while, more importantly, making pet parents aware of the safety measures they can take and the dangers that can occur if they don’t. We recommend that owners choose the right sized crate for their dog, which is generally six inches longer than the body of the dog. We are also pleased that our crossover vehicles, which are award winners themselves for safety, accept most crate and carrier sizes.

Study design

Subaru and CPS conducted their 2015 Crate and Carrier Crashworthiness Study using crash test dogs that were designed to approximate the weight and size of real dogs. They were placed in the crates and carriers during rigorous crash testing. Within this study, crates were defined as rigid, non-plastic structures, and carriers were rigid plastic structures and soft collapsible structures.

A successful outcome was defined by the following:

  • The carrier or crate must fully contain the test dog before, during and after the crash test
  • The carrier or crate and all device connection points must remain wholly connected to the test bench for the entirety of the test.

Research results

Most of the crates and carriers failed to meet the successful outcome criteria described above. In some cases the dog was expelled from the crate or carrier. In other cases the impact caused the crate or carrier to be released from its points of connection. There were three standout products:

    • The top performing crate was the Gunner Kennels G1 Intermediate with 8’ Tie Down Straps. This crate withstood the most significant forces with a combination of structural support and integrity. This crate is unique in that it has a dual locking feature on the door that provides significant structural support in case of an accident. Additionally, the crate’s rubber feet provided better grip than other crates tested.
    • The Pet Ego Forma Frame Jet Set Carrier was a top performing carrier. This carrier uses an ISOFIX-Latch that is designed to latch firmly into place, just like a child seat. This latch held securely and contained the test dog throughout the crash.
    • The Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed with PPRS Handilock was also named a 2015  top performing carrier.  The simulants were fully contained and the carriers remained wholly connected to the test bench for the duration of the test.

Full reports of the carrier and crate testing, including photos of the outcomes can be found at the Center for Pet Safety website.

Regarding the study results, Lindsey Wolko, Founder and CEO of Center for Pet Safety stated, “In partnership with Subaru, the 2015 studies were truly eye-opening and will once again help bring pet safety awareness to millions of pet parents around the globe.”

Kudos to CPS for performing these studies and hats off to Subaru of America for financing them.  By the way, darned good marketing, Subaru!

Do you confine your dog when you travel by car?  If so, how?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at,, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.


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12 Comments on “Canine Crash Studies Evaluate Crate and Carrier Safety

  1. Having four medium to large dogs it was impossible to use four carriers or kennels because my car did not grow with the family. Therefore, I used the SPORN safety halter which goes under the front “armpits” and closes on top of the back. The two large D=rings then clip onto the existing seatbelt in my car. This way everyone can move about in a limited way, stay in the back seat and breathe fresh air through a 4 inch opening of the windows. This is more than adequate, they can not interfere with my driving and safe for them.
    But Nancy, you know that I am an avid opponent of crates, and kennels to begin with. Yet I will concede that small ones are safer in such as long as the crate is truly well secured in the back. This way they cannot become missiles in case of sudden braking and injure passengers in the front and go through the windshield – another killer.

  2. I used to use a harness when transporting my rescue–mainly because I could keep her “safe” while still having her close to me. Then my my sister-in law advised me that if the passenger airbag were to deploy, it would most likely kill her. I immediately switched gears and secured her nice sized wire crate in the back of my Honda Odyssey with several bungee cords to prevent movement of any kind. She would still rather be looking out the window, but I feel better now. She already has three different crates (two of which are used when traveling–one soft-sided after destination is reached). I am comfortable with the arrangements provided, the vehicle’s integrity, and my defensive driving skills. I pray that others on the road are sensible. Every day anyone leaves home in a vehicle could be their last. Be safe for all your family members.

  3. Oops, misspoke, mistyped on my previous post. We have the Sleepypod AIR, not the Sleepypod Atom. Thanks.

  4. Until recently, we were using a Bergen harness for our 13# dog because that was supposed to be safe. Earlier this year we sprung for a Sleepypod Atom which did well in previous crash testing. It was a lot of money but we deemed it worthwhile. My dog is too large for the Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed which has now apparently performed well. I’m eager for an update on the Atom since I couldn’t find results. It’s hard keeping up with the research and affordability of these products. That said, you do the best you can and hope you never ever crash. Another benefit to using them is that when you open the car doors, your dog is restrained and not able to leap out unexpectedly.

  5. It would have been nice if they had tested crates that are more commonly used (and affordable), like VariKennel. I suspect that they would blow apart in a test crash but it would be useful to have that confirmed or not.

  6. Full disclosure: my children road thousands of miles, from Maine to California, loose in the back of a Ford Country Squire station wagon. So did everyone else’s children I knew – no one died or was injured.

    I didn’t use to use crate my dogs and they were fine. I quickly learned that cats must be somehow confined for MY safety. The best way I ever transported them was in a Vari-Kennel big enough for a Golden Retriever, with a plywood “loft” screwed in between the clam shell, covering half the surface. A disposable cat box was under the loft, and a “fuzzy” covered the plywood. The cats were both happy and safe from escape.

    But later dogs wanted to ride in my lap, with their heads in my face – NOT a good thing, so they started being crated. Getting the Vari-Kennels in and out of the back of the car was a pain and they were heavy to carry into the motel. I eventually bought a Cabana Crate (now out of business) – mesh with collapsable frame. It is light, airy for the dogs, and SO easy to put in and out of the car for local trips to the vet/groomer. It goes directly behind the driver’s seat, on the back seat of the car for local trips, and with the back seat down in my mid-size SUV for road trips. It is pretty secure – all things packed in the car are soft and not heavy, so nothing in the load will shift and crush them. In a crash? Probably not very protective – I’m counting on the structural strength of my Audi to protect us all.

    Crates are always a trade-off. A mainly solid hard crate is going to be far hotter than a mesh one. I know that some minivans and large SUVs (such as a Suburban) have rear AC systems, but most cars owned by pet owners do not, so keeping the pets cool is a major issue on long summer road trips. For me, the benefits of a mesh crate are tremendous.

    There is a huge difference between hunters transporting multiple hunting dogs, and show/agility/etc people transporting multiple dogs for competition and the family pet owner. The former, usually have vans, RVs, or other vehicles that they have specially designed for safely transporting multiple dogs on a regular basis. The family pet owner usually only transports their pets to and from the vet – not many families travel long distances by car anymore – the family vacation is usually by air. Few families are going to opt for a $400 dog crate to take Fido or Fluffy to the vet. Yes, most accidents occur within a few miles of the family home, but these are rarely the high speed horrific ones. In those, nearly no one ever survives, no matter how safe the car or how its occupants are restrained.

    Getting pet owners to confine their pets safely for these short trips must not involve asking them to go to heroic degrees. If we do that, the pets most likely will ride loose in the car. Something is better than nothing at all.

  7. Hi Diane,

    Thanks for your comments and question. Please look for the live link to the 2013 Harness study within my blog post.

    Best wishes,

    Dr. Nancy

  8. Hi Dr. nancy,
    Thanks so much for this article. Are you able to give us any results on the research done on safety harnesses? We are just about to purchase one as the car has no room for a secured crate and I was a bit alarmed at the statement that some “failed catastrophically.” Thanks again for any more info you may have.
    Diane Head

  9. Hi Diane. Thanks for posting your important question. I encourage you to contact Lindsey Wolko at the Center for Pet Safety to see if she has an answer for you.

  10. Where is the safest place to put crates in a SUV? We’ve been placing our 2 behind the driver’s and passenger’s seats instead of all the way in the back. Are we doing the right thing?

  11. Hi Lindsey,

    Thanks very much for your important addition to my article. Sorry for this oversight.

    Best wishes,

    Dr. Nancy

  12. Dr. Kay,

    Thank you for covering our efforts to keep both pets and the people who love them safe during their travels together. One Top Performing carrier was left out of your article – The Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed with PPRS Handilock. Both the Pet Ego and Sleepypod Carriers received equal placement as a Top Performing Carrier in our recent study. We believe all Top Performers deserve equal recognition due to the commitment it takes by the manufacturer to get to this elite performing level.

    Lindsey A. Wolko
    Founder, Center for Pet Safety