Dog equipment – the lack of legislation

This article is taken from the February edition of the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Animal Therapy (ACPAT) newsletter – I thought you might find it interesting. Pamela

Dog equipment – the lack of legislation

Julie Hill is a freelance writer and columnist who writes for several national magazines, writing about dogs and other animals. Julie has been producing and hosting DogCast Radio since 2005, and is regularly a guest on BBC Radio 2, 4 and 5 Live to discuss dog related issues. She is a stand-up comedian and her first book, Buddy’s Diary, is available online or from all good bookstalls.

It may come as a surprise to you to learn that there is no legislation governing the safety of dog leads, harnesses and crates in the UK. This means that buying such vital equipment can be something of a lottery unless dog owners arm themselves with the right information.

Karen Burton started the Campaign for a British Safety Standard on Dog Collars, Leads and Harnesses when the metal clip on her six month old puppy Indie’s lead broke after just three month’s use, allowing Indie to run into the path of a car which collided with and killed her

The advice when choosing a lead is to inspect it well, even to the point of giving it a good pull yourself. Leather may be a more durable option than webbing and consider using a harness with a double ended lead, ensuring the dog is still under control even of one clip breaks. Owners should also routinely check leads for any fraying or corrosion.

Although the Highway Code states that dogs should be ‘restrained’ in cars, it makes no reference to the crucial matter of using properly crash-tested harnesses or crates. According to the RoSPA, in the event of an impact, a 50lb (22.5kg) Border Collie can be thrown forward with a force equivalent to almost nine 12 stone men; an unrestrained dog is not only at risk of serious injury or death, he is a danger to everyone else in the car.

There is no legislation in the United States governing the effectiveness of dog car harnesses, which led Lindsey Wolko to found the Center for Pet Safety, after her own dog was injured due to a harness failure. The Center bases their testing on Federal Motor Vehicle standard 213 which is used for child safety seats, putting fully weighted dummy dogs on sleds which are propelled backwards to simulate a front end 30 mph collision.

The tests have revealed the failure of many harnesses, perhaps the worst was one which actually beheaded the dummy dog at the point of impact. The good news is that many manufacturers are taking note of the test results and working to improve their products.

Crash-tested crates are rarer, but there is at least one brand which has been tested in safety labs in Sweden and Germany. In the event of an accident, a crate needs to have an adequate crumple zone so that it retains its shape well enough to avoid crushing dogs inside it, without it being so rigid it poses a danger to human passengers. It should also have more than one exit door, and it should be professionally fitted and secured.

A quick on-line search will help sort the wheat from the chaff, but currently it is ‘buyer beware’. By buying from scrupulous manufacturers and retailers, and by supporting campaign’s such as Karen’s we can help make every dog as safe as possible. We use properly tested, kite marked seats for our children – surely our dogs deserve the same consideration.

Karen Burton’s Campaign for a British Safety Standard on Dog Collars, Leads and Harnesses.