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Our Take on the 2015 Crate Crash Test Study Completed by CPS

By Dawn Ross, 2015
In 2015, The Center for Pet Safety (CPS) conducted a crash test study on pet travel crates. Their study consisted of crates claiming to be crash tested and/or to offer crash protection. According to their Crate Summary Report, such a crate should help protect a pet from injury or escape in a crash, and the safety of the human passengers in the vehicle should also be considered.

CPS uses a European standard defined under ECE R-17 to determine the strength of the seatback for their test. It should be noted that CPS only conducted a frontal impact crash scenario on the crates.

CPS also used four strength rated anchor points to secure the crates during the crash test. I’m not sure what strength they consider strength rated (the report doesn’t say), but I doubt it is the actual real-world strength used in vehicles since I know for a fact that the Subaru Outback I looked at had cargo ring connection points made of plastic. Upon my review of a few other SUVs, cargo rings (also called anchor points) are either nonexistent or barely better than the plastic ones. My understanding is that these connection points are merely designed to keep luggage and such from sliding around during normal driving conditions and not crash scenarios. CPS seems to acknowledge as much in another report they wrote titled Cargo Area Connection Advisory. Also, there is an excellent article that shows pictures of the average anchor points found in vehicles. This article is titled Subaru-CPS Pet Crash Test Study Fails the Test and it is worth reading.

According to CPS, these anchor point connections should not break or detach in the crash test. If most cargo anchor points in vehicles are like the ones mentioned above for the Subaru, then the CPS crash test is faulty since the real-world anchor points are likely to break for every single crate regardless of how durable the straps that come with the crate are.

CPS also states that the crate should not rely on the seatback for additional support. If the anchor points currently available in SUVs are not equipped to keep a crate in place, then what else is going to keep a crate from flying forward into one of the front passengers?

Basically, if you plan on using a crate in the cargo area, strapping it down is not enough unless you have the vehicle manufacturer install cargo rings that are more durable and designed to hold up in a crash test. I do not think this service is readily available. So what do we do?

If regulations for the seatback in ECE R-17 is designed to keep luggage and such in the back, why can’t it be relied on for a crate? If a crate’s anchor points break in a crash, which is likely considering how weak the anchor points are in most vehicles, then the crate is going to hit the back of the seat. And the back of the seat is going to absorb the impact and dissipate the force. Isn’t this a good thing? Better that than to have the seats folded down, as CPS suggests, and have the crate fly forward and crash into the back of passengers’ heads.

So where does that lead us in the products that CPS crash tested? Basically, any crate that did not break open enough to let the dog escape, that did not injure the dog by having parts of the crate break into the crate, and allowed for the dog to be rescued from the crate without too much trouble should have been considered as passing CPS’s tests.

This pet travel crate broke when it was not placed against the seatback in the first test. It held up much better in the second test where the crate was placed against the seatback, but the testers could not open the door to get the dummy dog out without a pry bar. The test also found that the rear and side panels of the crate are made of chipboard.

The only fault found in both crash test scenarios that CPS conducted on this pet travel crate was that the anchor straps broke off. As previously discussed, this is to be expected.

CPS did not find any fault in the crash test conducted on this crate. In fact, they were so satisfied with the first test (where the crate was not up against the seatback) that they didn’t even conduct a second test (where the crate was up against the seatback). This suggests the CPS tests were subjective rather than scientific. When conducting scientific and objective tests, one does not stop testing simply because a single tests performs they way they want it to. The reason CPS was satisfied with the first test was because the anchor straps that Gunner provided with the crate did not break at all. While this is good, remember that in real vehicles the cargo rings the straps are attached to will likely break. Therefore, this crate probably would have broken away if CPS used real-world connection points.

The crate door completely broke off in the first test where the crate was not up against the seatback. The crate door broke in the second test as well, but not enough to let the dog escape. This shows that the crate being up against the seatback is probably the best position. The body of the crate held up well in both tests, but the manufacturer may want to consider a better door.

Wire crates completely failed in all respects. They broke open completely and in some cases broke inward onto the dog.

CPS subjectively considered the Gunner kennel to be the best but only because their straps didn’t break. However, I think the Variocage pet travel crate is the best. There are two reason for this. First, the Variocage has a crumple zone built into it, which is designed to react just like the vehicle would in an accident. And I’m betting that this crumple zone also helps to reduce the force impacted into the seatback, therefore protecting the front passengers. Without this crumple zone feature, I'm thinking that a heavy crate without such a feature would exert much more force than what vehicle manufacturers designed for the seatback to hold. Second, the Variocage has already been tested in other crash test scenarios, including rollovers and rear end accidents. Since Gunner has not published their crash testing information, I have no idea if they will hold up in side-impact, rear-impact, or rollover car accidents.

Copyright © Nature by Dawn