NEW YORK (NBC News Channel) -- Pet harnesses, seatbelts for dogs, are designed to keep our best friends safe while we chauffeur them around. There are dozens of dog safety products on the market, and lawmakers in New Jersey are even considering a bill to require a car restraint for Rover.
"People tend to treat their animals like members of the family," said New Jersey Assembly Woman Grace Spencer. "Why don't we treat them like that when they're in the car?"
While harnesses may give pet owners piece of mind, a new study suggests they may not offer much actual protection.
"It was just astounding what we saw," said Lindsey Wolko.
Wolko founded the Center for Pet Safety in 2011 after getting into a car accident while traveling with her dog. The harness failed and "Maggie" suffered spinal injuries.
So Wolko decided to test four of the strongest dog harnesses on the market, applying the same federal motor vehicle safety standards for testing child seats. Using a 55 pound weighted test dog, Wolko and her team simulated a 30-mile-per-hour collision. The results? Every single harness failed.
In the first test, the harness held up, but provided too much slack. The dummy dog rocketed forward, crashing into the back of the test bench. But the results would get far worse.
In two of the tests, the harnesses snapped completely, sending the test dog flying through the air, totally unprotected, becoming a dangerous projectile. It's estimated that in a crash at 30 miles per hour, a tiny ten pound dog will exert 300 pounds of pressure. In the fourth test, there was a devastating result. The harness slid up to the test dog's neck upon impact.
"I don't think that there's any doubt that those dogs would have been seriously injured, if not fatally injured," Wolko said.
Wolko doesn't identify the manufacturers in the tests because they're not doing anything wrong. There are not existing safety standards in place, something the Center for Pet Safety is working to change so that roadtrips are safer for all passengers, including the four legged ones.
"My dog was injured by one of these products, and I felt that this is inexcusable," added Wolko. "This should not happen. The pets still an improvement over no restraint.
The American Pet Products Association represents harness manufacturers, and in response to Wolko's findings, released a statement saying: ".. there are an increasing number of reported accidents where a pet distracting the driver is being cited as the cause. A pet restraint that merely limits a pets access and distraction to the driver and limits its motion in the event of an accident is still an improvement over no restraint."