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A pet harness is equipment consisting of straps of webbing that loop nearly around—that fasten together using side release buckles—the torso of an animal, typically a quadrupedal mammal such as a dog, cat, pig, or rabbit; however, there are harnesses for parrots and other birds.
These harnesses generally are made to have both a strap on the chest in front of the forelimbs, and a strap around the torso behind the forelimbs, with straps in between connecting these two for reinforcement. Having a D-ring suitable for (pet tags and) a leash to clip to, they are most often used to simply restrain an animal, but dogs may also particularly wear them to assist a person with a disability or haul people and items.
Most are tailored with a specific species’ anatomy in mind, so as to comfortably fit it. Some come in different sizes, although many are size-adjustable with tri-glide slides to loosen or shorten the straps’ length. The straps come in a range of different colors, some having patterns, and some that are meant in particular to have high visibility have a reflective coating. These straps are usually made of hemp, cotton, polyester or nylon, while the slides', rings' and buckles' material is either plastic or metal. A harness may be sold in a set together with a matching leash.
The sole original purposes of these harnesses were for them to be attached to weight for draft dogs to pull, and to mount flashlights or alerting signs on them; however, while they are still used for this, they are now commonly attached to a leash for restraining a companion animal, such as an untrained dog who has a tendency to run out in front of cars, severely maul/kill neighborhood cats, etc, that is taken for a walk. When used as such, the harness is worn in conjunction with a leash; one end of the leash has a metal clip that is attached to the ring on the harness, while the other end is typically a loop held by the human.
While a collar only encircles the neck, harnesses have loops that surround the thorax. Harnesses with loops placed around the dogs chest are known as front-clip harnesses, back-clip harnesses have the loop placed on the dogs back. This design allows for the distribution of force, which reduces pressure placed on the animal's trachea, and therefore, possesses a significantly lower risk of strangulation. Harnesses also possess a much lesser chance of said animal slipping out than possible if it wears a collar.
Pet clothing frequently sports a properly-placed buttonhole for the D-ring of the harness worn under the garment. In addition, there are in fact some pet harnesses that are designed to look like clothes, some made of denim.
Sled dog harnesses
Sled dog harnesses vary depending on whether the dog is hauling freight or racing. Harnesses come in three main types: the freight harness, the H-back harness, and the X-back harness. Dog sports are growing and more types of harnesses are being developed, including the Y-back style and guard or distance harness. This type of harness is quickly becoming a favorite for those who enjoy skijoring.
The freight harness, often an H-back harness with a wide chest-band and sometimes extra padding, is designed to help the dog pull heavy weights efficiently, and may feature a spreader bar behind the wheel dogs and before the sled or cart. The straps form an 'H' or ladder-like effect across the back of the dog. These harnesses help distribute the weight of the cargo over a broader body area.
Racing harnesses are lighter and shorter than freight harnesses. The X-back harness, so called because the straps form an 'X' across the back of the dog, is used more frequently than the H-back, with short versions that ride farther forward on the dog's body recently gaining in popularity.
The Y-back or hybrid harness is similar in appearance to the H-back. The tugline attaches to the harness on top of the dog's back and stretches parallel to the ground or upwards to the skier, bicycle, or other load.
In contrast, dogs that participate in weight pulls (as compared to a regular freight harness) will wear very heavy, padded harnesses, with broad chest-bands to help spread the weight and prevent harm to the dog.
Assistance dog harnesses
Assistance dogs may wear specialized harnesses, although not required by the Americans with Disabilities Act in the United States. Mobility assistance dogs may wear specialized, custom-designed harnesses that allow them to bear a small portion of their handlers’ weight so that they may offer balance assistance, counterbalance, bracing and stability. These harnesses usually include a rigid metal bracing handle, but some include lightweight soft handles to allow for minor support. Guide dogs work in specially designed harnesses which allow the dog to communicate properly with the handler while leading. A handle of a guide dog harness is different than that of a mobility assistance dog one—a guide handle is slanted at an angle to allow for a more natural and comfortable hand position for the handler, and is not intended to bear weight. Custom harnesses for assistance dogs can generally range in price from $100-$600.
Car safety harnesses
Safety harnesses designed for use in an automobile restrain the animal in a car seat using the car's seat belt. These harnesses are marketed as reducing the risk of injury to a pet that is riding in a vehicle during a traffic collision. The harnesses are also said to keep the pet from distracting the driver, or escaping from a vehicle. The Center for Pet Safety found "a 100-percent failure rate to protect either the consumer or the dog [or other animal]." in a 2013 crash test study of existing car safety harnesses. Since then, several car safety harness have been designed that pass crash tests conducted by the Center for Pet Safety.
In 2012, New Jersey assemblywoman Grace Spencer (D-Essex) introduced bill A3221 that would require dog and cat owners to restrain their animals while traveling in a moving vehicle. If enacted, pets not traveling in a crate would be required to wear a safety harness. NJ drivers who violate the law would be subject to a $20 ticket, as well as possible conviction for animal cruelty offense.
Public opinion summary
In a 2012 poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind, New Jersey voters split over proposed legislation to require automobile drivers to restrain pets. The poll question was: “Do you favor or oppose legislation that requires safety restraints or crates for dogs while traveling in a car?” and nearly half (45%) of New Jersey voters favored the bill, while four in every ten (40%) opposed the legislation. Dan Cassino, professor of Political Science, noted: “The people who are going to be most impacted by this bill – people who actually own dogs – don’t like it.”
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