We’ve all experienced buying something that is supposed to do a specific, important task only to have it break or fail after a few times of use. Not only is it frustrating and wasting your money, but when it comes to our pets…they are like our children, we don’t want to use products that are going to be putting them at risk. To learn more about pet product safety we invited Lindsey Wolko the founder of Center for Pet Safety (CPS) and two companies that have gone through the CPS testing protocol and received the highest certification from CPS on the show. Here’s what we learned from them.
Center for Pet Safety
You may have heard of the Consumer Product Safety Commision (CPSC). They’re the organization that regulates consumable products on the market such as cribs, electronics, and cleaning chemicals. Pretty much any product that can kill, injure, damage property, and can cause lawsuits. Unfortunately, CPSC doesn’t regulate pet products as they’re considered non-consumable products, according to Lindsey Wolko (2011). Since the CPSC doesn’t take it upon themselves to regulate and test pet products circulating in the market, Lindsey set off to start CPS after experiencing a terrible incident with her dog Maggie.
In 2004 Lindsey rescued a little dog from an abusive situation. At the time Lindsey’s car didn’t give much room for a crate allowing Maggie to wander around the cabin. Fearing Maggie’s safety, Lindsey went to a local retail store and purchased a harness to help keep Maggie safe. Well, one day the harness got put to the ultimate test when Lindsey slammed on the breaks as an impatient driver cut her off. To her dismay, she heard Maggie screaming in pain as the harness allowed Maggie to fly off the seat and slam head first into the seat in front of her. In the aftermath, Maggie became entangled in the harness’s extension tether, which caused the poor dog pain. Maggie luckily survived the injury but if the situation were worse, Maggie could have seen a grizzlier fate. While Maggie recovered, Lindsey researched products that could keep Maggie safe. In her research, she became shocked from how unregulated the pet product industry is. It’s a wild west show. This led Lindsey to start CPS which seeks to keep our pets safe, healthy, and alive by conducting scientific research and product testing.
For more on Maggie and the Center for Pet Safety’s story visit: http://www.centerforpetsafety.org/who-is-cps/maggie/
How Are Products Evaluated?
The products CPS test are graded on a grading system that CPS creates based on what the product should do. To help grade the product, they come up with measurements that evaluate the product. The measurements and grades are based on safety protocols they created in initial studies. CPS doesn’t setup pet product companies and manufacturers to fail their tests. CPS’s initial studies were conducted on products already on the market so they understand what the industry can already achieve based on high performing products that are currently being sold in the market. Overall, the grade is meant to help define what safe means to the consumer.
To give us an example of testing and evaluating, Lindsey gave us quick break-down of the protocols involved in testing carriers. First, the carrier gets placed on a bench. The bench is the same as the benches used in child seat testing. When placed, the testers strap the carrier to the bench based on the manufacturer’s instructions. Then the test begins and the results get recorded and measured. CPS measures if the carrier remains on the seat, the hardware components durability and tightness, and if the test dog remains contained. Don’t worry, the test dog is not a real dog but a dummy dog developed by a NASA engineer Lindsey worked with. Once the results are analyzed they get a final grade that will make them CPS certified or not.
Who’s Involved in Testing
CPS is the only company involved in the testing of products. It’s a conflict of interest if a company or manufacturer becomes involved with the testing. The testing and results won’t do the consumer much good if the pet product company were fudging and exaggerating the results and data. Even though the pet product companies will not be involved in the actual testing of their product, CPS will invite them to watch the testing in action and will let them know what areas their product succeed and what areas their product failed. Lindsey emphasized that CPS doesn’t consult these companies on how they can improve their products. They just give the companies something to work with and let them decide on how they want to proceed in improving their product.
While on the show, Lindsey pointed out how some traveling pet product companies will deceive consumers with their subjective messages. Some companies will make exaggerated claims that their product was tested and can keep your pet safe in any accident. Some even claim that their product is safe because it was tested with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 2-13 (FMVSS2-13)Crash Testing. Despite that claim possibly being true, it doesn’t highlight the fact that FMVSS2-13 Crash Testing tests for standard human traveling products, not pet traveling products. At face value, the product may seem safe but in reality, it could be quite the gamble.
As our time with Lindsey was coming to a close, we asked her to share what CPS plans to research and test next. She couldn’t share one of CPS’s most recent studies on a product due to legal reasons but she did give us a peek at what we can expect to come from CPS. Currently, CPS investigated one area of pet products in the pet industry and that is car products. In the future, Lindsey hinted that CPS will conduct studies on other areas of pet products such as toys and food. She even mentioned in some of CPS’s initial research on pet toys how they discovered some toys contained cable ties that caused scarring and damage to a dog’s throat. Very horrifying and troubling stuff but nevertheless important to look into. As Lindsey stated, CPS looks into scenarios and situations that most pet parents’ don’t want to think about.
Donate to CPS
The Center for Pet Safety doesn’t receive government funding like the Consumer Product Safety Commision. Instead, CPS relies on donations from pet parents, grants, and organizations that love pets. However, CPS doesn’t accept funding from pet product companies and manufacturers. CPS might not be a charity but it’s an important organization that focuses on keeping pets safe and bringing some kind of regulation and standards to the pet industry. Protect the pets you got and consider donating to CPS. To donate to CPS, go to their website, CenterForPetSafety.org/get-involved/donate/. You can also write them a check and send it to their office at Reston Virginia.
Sleepypod is a company that specializes in creating safe pet carriers, harnesses, and travel accessories. There number one priority is to keep your pet safe and secure as you travel in your car. They also keep in mind the comfort of your pet, and their main product Sleepypod is designed not only as a carrier but a comfy traveling bed that can be used outside the car.
We had the privilege to talk to Michael Leung, the founder of Sleepypod, to learn how this wonderful company and product came into being. We found out the first Sleepypod was created out of a need Michael and his wife had at the time. They just adopted a cat and they were traveling a lot at the time, meaning their new kitten needed to tag along. However, they know not all pets like to travel and some get stressed out from doing so. From this need, they ended up buying products already on the market and frankinstein something together. They noticed how happy and content their cat felt in the bed carrier they created. Since Michael and his wife are designers by heart it led them to create a complete product on their own.
Before Sleepypod products were released out on the market, the Sleepypod team tested the products quite vigorously in-house to make sure it past their safety testing. One of the things they tested for was making sure the dog wouldn’t fly off the seat or experience excessive movement while strapped in. For Sleepypod’s first harness, it took them a year and a half and 9 testing periods to finally get the product to meet their safety standards.
Other tests they performed were strength tests, that they call “tensile tests”. This test would pull materials apart to see how strong the material is. Another test would be the crash test, which is a sled being launched at 30 mph with an impact at the end. This would test how the actual product works in an actual crash.
Sleepypod started developing harnesses as soon as they got an opportunity to try testing harnesses. For a long period of time they were only testing carriers but when they were given the opportunity to test harnesses, they purchased some harnesses currently on the market and tested them out. They were surprised at the results since most of the harnesses they tested were not safe at all. In some of the tests, the test dog went flying through the windshield and other tests the dog got strangulated by the tethers. After learning how these so called safety harnesses actually worked, Sleepypod developed their own harnesses through thorough testing. Fortunately, they got word from CPS that they tested their harness and it outperformed other harnesses on the market which was a real pleaser for the company.
As mentioned before, Sleepypod does their own in-house testing. To conduct testing it would be necessary to use a test dog. Obviously, a real dog shouldn’t be used in the actually testing but some kind of proportional dummy dog should be used. Michael shared that Sleepypod uses two dummy dogs, one named Max and the other Duke. Max is used for testing carriers and is a small little guy with more of a balanced weight. Duke is used to for testing harnesses and he is shaped and has weight distributed more like an actual dog. Duke represents a large 75lbs dog. They don’t test for dogs under that weight as their harnesses keep the pet secure, so they can’t wiggle out. If the large dog can stay safe and secure then so can the little one’s, so no need to test.
Michael shared with us one story of a customer who’s dog was protected by their click-it-utility harness. Vallerie was riding along with her husband and her dog Dexter down a two lane highway. A large truck going the opposite direction veered into their lane forcing Vallerie and her family off the road. Vallerie’s husband had to dodge trees and other hazards before finally coming to a stop. They were all shaken up but they were luckily all left uninjured. Vallerie witnessed the Sleepypod harness do it’s job successfully and didn’t hesitate to share with Sleepypod her gratitude.
Clickit Terrain – New Product
Sleepypod’s newest harness is the clickit terrain. The terrain’s designed for high-performance service dogs. It keeps them safe, and secure in the car. It can be used outside the car to take the dog on walks. Terrain has interchangeable reflective patches making it easier to spot the dog, as well as providing a way to attach a service dog patch. What I like especially are the accessories that Michael mentioned such as the attachable backpack. The backpack can force your dog to carry their own lunch when you go on a hike or even their own poop bag. Cause who wants to carry poo down the mountain?
A Gunner Kennels’s crate holds amazing strength and durability. It can withstand over 4,000lbs of weight and keep your pet safe and secure while you’re on the go. Crate’s from Gunner Kennel’s are described as the Fort Knox of Kennels and with good reason. To help us learn more about these tough kennels we invited Gunner Kennels’s founder Addison Edmonds to come on the show.
Addison described Gunner Kennels all started with his chocolate lab Gunner. He took Gunner everywhere with him. Gunner went on hikes, hunting trips, and even to Addison’s job. Gunner gave Addison companionship and his all in everything he would do with Addison. During all their travels, Addison felt uncomfortable with the plastic crates on the market and he felt he needed to ensure the safety of his best friend during their travels. So, Addison built a strong durable crate and a company to help dog lovers alike to keep their best friends safe even in the scariest and deadliest situations out on the road.
Gunner Kennels Development
As hinted already these crates stand out in their strength department and have even earned a 5-star rating in the CPS Crash Test Rating, the highest rating CPS gives. The Gunner Kennels G1 Intermediate specifically got this rating and it is the only crate to receive this rating so far. Addison informed us of how the product earned the rating through its extensive year-long development cycle. They started with deciding how the crates would be manufactured. The plastic crates currently on the market are ejection molded which makes them more brittle and prone to damage. The Gunner crate takes on rotational molding which is the same process Kyaks and marine gas tanks go through for extra toughness. Once Addison knew the manufacturing process he wanted to go with, he needed a design to mold the crate. After a year, a design was settled on and the crate got created.
Before rushing to the market, Addison wanted to crash test the crate. He thought it would pass no problem but it didn’t. The tie down pins and the door on the crate gave them the most trouble. The first door they used was complete junk. After going back in forth with 5 engineers and a third-party testing the crate, they finally designed a strong and durable crate that would keep the pet safe. Addison states Gunner Kennels stands out from other pet crate companies because they do their due diligence in making sure the product keeps the pet safe and does what it is supposed to do.
The pet industry and the outdoor industry call Gunner Kennels a disruptive product. Addison believes they call their kennels that because other companies are out to make money. They’re more concerned with the profits rather than putting some of that profit into research and development. Gunner Kennels focuses more on keeping dogs safe on their travels rather than just simply to make money. Addison hinted if they were set on just to make money they would sell each crate for 2 grand a piece just because that is how much it costs them to make a crate.
One of the tests they performed on the crates was a durability test. Gunner Kennels invested in a company to see how much weight the crate can endure. Addison recalled on the show how he told the research firm, “Hey, I wanna crush this crate, I wanna know how much weight the crate can hold’. The company used a machine that would try and crush the crate with 4,000lbs of weight. The test broke the machine 3 times in a row and the company couldn’t continue testing because they didn’t have the equipment to exert more pressure on the crate to crush it.
The Importance of Securing Your Dog
We asked Addison what his response would be to folks out there who say, “I’m just heading up the street” or “I like my dog sitting by my side on the front seat”. His response was, one you’re distracting yourself on the road. If you’re constantly monitoring your dog as you drive, you’re just as likely to get in an accident as if you were texting and driving. Second, dogs can become projectiles in an accident if they’re not secured. You risk injuring your dog, passengers, and yourself if you don’t secure them. Lastly, no one plans to get in a car accident, so an accident can happen at any time. If you’re prepared you’ll have much peace of mind knowing you did everything to protect your furry companion.
It was a real pleasure interviewing Lindsey, Michael, and Addison on the show. Their insights and commitment to pet safety bring me, as a consumer, more peace of mind when using their products. For you pet parent’s out there, we want to emphasize, do your due diligence when investing in pet products. Research the product, read testimonials, refer to CPS to see if they tested and graded the product. The more research you do ahead of time, you’re likely to save money in the long run and most importantly, decrease the risk of injury and death of your furry companion. Keep your pets safe, and do your homework. With that, take care pet lovers and we’ll see you in the next rewind article.