Kurgo's pet harness is designed to keep a large dog safe in a back seat. (Jeff Adams/ / Kurgo)
It was a decade ago that Kitter Spater’s big dog kept trying to climb into the front seat with him as he was driving. At something like 85 pounds, such an event was an obvious distraction to safe driving.
But since Spater, an industrial design graduate from Pratt Institute, and his brother, Gordon, a Harvard MBA, had founded a company, Motivation Design, to create products to make life easier for their potential customers, they went to work and used a Rubbermaid storage bin cover and a bunch of bungie cords to create a barrier that would keep Zelda in the back seat.
Obviously, the brothers knew, this makeshift creation wasn’t something that could be sold, so they started making improvements and soon launched a line of Kurgo pet products worthy of selling, including harnesses designed to not only keep dogs in place, but to keep them from flying around should the vehicle be involved in a collision.
Research the brothers’ company did with the AAA revealed that only some 15 percent of dog owners typically used any sort of restraint system when traveling. But Kurgo’s customers turned out to be atypical and “people started to ask us if our products were crash tested,” Gordon Spater said. “They asked what happens under force?”
Thus, and now for several years, Kurgo, which is based in Salisbury, Mass., has worked with a NHTSA-accredited lab at the University of Michigan to do actual crash testing of its pet restraint systems. The tests follow the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 213 for child car seats. Spater said Kurgo has used the results of those tests to make on-going improvements to its products.
One result of such tests was to develop a restraint for larger dogs that uses heavy-duty buckles.
Gordon’s current dog is Baxter, which he calls a large “golden doodle.” Kitter has two large dogs, Garp and Rocket.
“Originally, we were using plastic buckles like the ones on a dog collar,” Gordon Spater said. “Since then, we’ve developed a nesting buckle like those an electric lineman or rock climber would use.”
The idea, he added, was to keep an 85-pound dog “from becoming a projectile in the car.”
And thus was created Kurgo’s True-Fit Smart Harness 3085. The 30 stands for the 30 miles per hour at which the crash test was conducted. The 85 signifies the weight of the simulated dog used during that testing.
Recently, automaker Subaru and the Center for Pet Safety did tests of several pet harness systems, including Kurgo’s. The tests were done with simulated 25-, 45- and 75-pound dogs.
Sleepypod’s Clickit Utility Harness “was the only harness tested to consistently keep a dog from launching off the seat,” the study concluded.
The Subaru/CPS study also was done at 30 mph.
Kurgo stands behind its harness, which was tested at 85 pounds. Gordon Spater noted that Kurgo’s restraint can be adjusted to hold the dog in place or allow the dog some room to move around with reason. He also said the harness is designed to be used outside of a vehicle.
“The harness slips over the dog’s head and clips around the stomach. It is great for walking,” he added.
Kurgo pet restraints start at $20. The True-Fit Smart Harness is $75.
Larry Edsall is a Phoenix-based freelance writer. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.