Julija Sapic/Shutterstock

Subaru is taking strides to ensure that passengers with two and four legs are as safe as possible in a crash. The automaker recently partnered with the Center for Pet Safety, a non-profit organization committed to companion animal and consumer safety, to provide funding to test the harnesses that dog and cat owners use to secure their pets in cars.

“The Center for Pet Safety conducted a pilot study which showed that the majority of pet safety restraints currently on the market do not provide acceptable protection in a crash situation,” says Michael McHale, Subaru's director of corporate communications in a press release. “As many of our owners have dogs, we feel it’s our responsibility to help them keep their pets as safe as possible when they journey with us.”

The non-profit organization performed crash tests using specially-designed 55-pound dummies, or “crash test dogs,” in a procedure that mimics the testing performed on child safety seats. Four popular dog harnesses were tested, none of which were able to restrain the dogs in a crash that takes place at 30 mph. The tests indicate that, in a crash, the harnesses could result in serious or deadly injuries for the dogs wearing them as well as the driver. Cars.com writes, “The bodies of unrestrained animals pose a danger to humans as their bodies can become deadly ‘missiles’ in a crash.”

Unbuckled pets may also contribute to distracted driving. A 2010 AAA survey showed that 59 percent of respondents “participated in at least one distracting behavior while driving with their dog,” such as petting their dog while driving (55 percent) or letting the dog sit in their lap (21 percent).

“Currently, there are no performance standards or test protocols in the U.S. for pet travel products,” says Subaru. “Although many manufacturers claim to test their products, without test standards, these claims cannot be substantiated.” Subaru and the Center for Pet Safety intend to develop a testing methodology for pet harnesses, as well as information about which brands perform best.

Shopping for a Subaru or another new car? Check out the U.S. News rankings of this year's best cars. Then, look for a great deal on a new car by checking out this month’s best car deals. Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.