Richard Casey, 4x4 North America, October 2015
Why did The Center for Pets Safety not give the Variocage its highest rating considering the superiority of its crash safety engineering?
MIM Construction, maker of the Variocage, believes that the safety of both people and pets depends on complete and thorough auto crash safety testing under real world conditions, such as required by the rigorous SPCT method, derived from government auto crash safety standards.
MIM Construction believes that while the CPS’s testing efforts may be well intentioned, they fall far short of this standard and only test one scenario under less than real world conditions. However, even if you lay aside the objections to the lack of professional thoroughness and rigor in their testing efforts, the review report is also perplexing.
While CPS admits that the Variocage’s vitally important controlled compression feature (which works like a car’s crumple zone) performed exactly as designed, they go on to criticize the product due to the release of the positioning straps during the crash (a necessary safety feature that is part of the controlled compression of the crate). This implies that the performance of straps and the cargo hooks should be relied on as an important crash safety feature.
MIM Construction’s highly trained crash safety engineers thoroughly disagree. In fact, they warn that vehicle cargo hooks must never be relied upon to reduce the crates forward momentum in a crash. The limited load capacity of standard vehicle cargo hooks and straps should only be used to prevent shifting of the cage to ensure the crate is held snugly against the second-row seat and to insure a comfortable and stable ride for your pets. CPS has even stated on its own website that:
“… at CPS we have serious concerns about the structural integrity of the cargo area platform and the [cargo hook] connections therein. Cargo area anchors are not necessarily weight-rated to the requirements needed to properly anchor your pet. Additionally, the cargo area platform is not necessarily as solid as you think it may be.” (Center For Pet Safety)
So, it is hard to reconcile the CPS review of the Variocage against their own contradictory position on the unreliability of cargo hooks and cargo platforms during a crash. It is also hard to understand why they would perform their reviews using unusually strong cargo hooks with many times the load baring capacity (we estimate at least 10,000 pounds of force per hook) of standard auto cargo hooks -- significantly departing from the important concept of “real world” crash testing.
Consequently, we feel consumers should disregard any recommendations based on low-quality, incomplete testing that departs from real-world scenarios, since doing so can cause consumers to choose products that will fail in real-world situations, resulting in injury. They should instead look for products that have passed thorough crash safety tests performed by qualified crash safety engineers under real-world conditions for all major crash scenarios, such as the Variocage.
If the Variocage does not rely on cargo hooks and straps to secure the crate, does that mean it relies on the rear seat back to keep the crate from flying forward and injuring passengers?
Yes, from a safety engineering perspective, this is the safest method. The rear seat back in SUVs is designed by auto manufacturers to be a strong barrier between the cargo and passenger compartments. Safety experts recommend placing your heaviest loads directly against the rear seat back to limit forward momentum and to disperse energy over a broader surface area in the event of an impact. This is the safest and the most highly recommended method for safe travel.
In its report, CPS argues against reliance on the rear row seat backs because the seat back of these seats were broken by their previous crate test back in 2011. However, CPS did not test the Variocage during their preliminary crate testing. Had CPS actually conducted a thorough crash test of dog crates they would have discovered that Variocage does not break the rear seat back during crash testing due its unique crumple zone engineering.
Again, we strongly disagree with CPS’ statements and test designs that seem to advocate an alternative approach that defies the standard wisdom of safety experts and relies instead on the strength of cargo hooks and restraints as the primary means of protecting pets and people in a front or rear end collision.
The failure of their approach unfortunately is not clear to consumers due to the limited and artificial scenario of their test design. When testing for passenger safety, It is critical to perform all safety tests using real-world scenarios such as a front, rear and rollover accidents. It is crucial that all testing be done using the actual equipment found in modern day vehicles while incorporating both human crash test dummies and dog crash test dummies.