Our new ride
After quite a bit of research, I've come to the conclusion that there is no, one, "best" solution for dogs in cars. It depends on the size of the dog, the make and model of car, your pocketbook, and what's important to you in terms of features.
Up until now, Kodi has always ridden in the front seat with me, air bag turned off, in a donut bed with a crash-tested car harness. I actually still feel this was a pretty safe option for him. But Pixel... Poor Pixel! Was too small for a crash tested harness, and my car (A Mini Cooper Paceman) doesn't have an easily accessible back seat. So, she has been riding in a clam-shell style crate, bungeed down in the back of the car... In an area that I am SURE is within the crumple zone for the vehicle. OTOH, the Paceman keeps us safer in the winter, because it's all wheel drive, and is a bigger, heavier car than my old "little" Coopers.
It is clear that both clam shell style plastic crates and ESPECIALLY wire crates are EXTREMELY unsafe in all but the lowest speed crashes. Some soft sided carriers, if properly installed in the back seat are quite safe, but they only work for the smallest Havanese. The top harnesses are FAIRLY safe when used with the seatbelt DIRECTLY through the harness, and the dog on the seat, but are much less safe used with a tether or "booster" seat. The problem with ALL harnesses that I've seen is that in a higher speed crash, even though the harness may contain the dog and keep it from hurting people in the car, the likelihood of a broken neck or spine is great. This is something they don't actually "test" for (not sure they can) but watch in slow motion how the dog-dummy deforms, and I'm not sure that's survivable. In fact, I have a dear friend who died in a car accident in June, and his Papillon, in a car harness had to be euthanized because although he survived the accident, his spine was broken.
The Pupsaver is another option for smaller Havs, but then again, it turns out that it depends on exactly where the dog is sitting whether the "catcher's mit" design will actually protect the dog in a real-life/live dog scenario.
I looked into Variocages, and really would have sprung for the obscene cost (about $800 each for the size we'd need for our dogs) but they cannot be safely installed in my car, because it doesn't have a solid back seat. Variocage is VERY clear that to work safely, it MUST be installed against a solid back seat! Otherwise, not only does it not protect the dog properly, but you could have a mass of sheet metal hurtling toward the back of your head in a crash!
Then I looked at Gunners and a couple of other crates that did well in crash tests, only to find that they don't make them small enough... either for my car or for Havanese. (and too-large crates are as dangerous to the dog as leaving them loose) So THOSE were off the list.
Next I looked at Ruff Tough Kennels. According to the "testing" (some of which is very slanted, IMO) RTK "failed" because the doors came off. But wait! The crate, itself, deformed only VERY mildly during the crash test, then popped back to the original shape. They "failed" it because the door opened, allowing the dog to escape. I went onto a couple of web sites where people discuss car crating options for sporting dogs, and many people had solved this door problem by drilling slots for velcro to attach to the door in case the plastic deforms in a crash. Sounded like a good plan.
So I ordered my RTK's. Are they as safe as Variocages? IMO, no, IF you have a car that will accommodate mounting the Variocage properly. They are also MUCH less expensive ($360 for two as opposed to $1,600 plus shipping for two) whcih could make the Variocages a deal-breaker for many people. But I think this is the safest solution I can have for my dogs. The crates are coupled together, and then strapped down to the cargo tie-downs. I made sure that the crates are as far forward (against the seats) as I could get them, to keep them as far away from the crumple zone as possible.
I had RTK drill extra ventilation holes in the back of each crate, because some people on the lists complained that they got too hot due to lack of ventilation. I can also run fans from two different electrical ports if I need to.
So... The bottom line is that by far the BEST thing you can do to protect your dog is to drive defensively and stay out of accidents, AND to make sure they are confined in SOME way in the car. Beyond that, you need to educate yourself and make the best decision you can based on the information available, and knowing that NOTHING is going to save either your dogs or yourself in ALL kinds of accidents. But I thought it might be helpful for some of you to see what my thought process was, and how I decided what to use for my own dogs, who are in the car with me almost daily. Here are some photos of the RTK's installed today:
Karen, Kodi, Pixel and Panda
(ARCHMX Starborn Kodak Moment CGC, NTD, BN, PCD, NA, NAJ, CDX-CCH, RE, RLV, RL1X3, RL2X4, RL3X3...
plus Starborn's Picture Perfect & CH Nauti Herd Compact Flash RN, CGC, NTD, SN-C, RL1)
Last edited by krandall; 11-27-2015 at 04:16 PM.