Episode 75 – Lindsey Wolko

Lindsey Wolko joins us today and shares with us a personal story about Maggie that led her down the path of pet product crash testing. Lindsey is a long-term pet safety advocate and leads a mission that is personal to every pet owner. The Center for Pet Safety (CPS) has authored the first safety standards for pet products, launched a certification program, counseled pet product manufacturers around the globe and works tirelessly for consumer and companion animal safety. They have a bright future ahead of them and we’re excited to see what 2019 has in store for them. They have many resources on their website, including recalls and a place where you can file a complaint, we encourage you to check them out and see how you can help them today!

Welcome to the professionals in animal rescue podcast where our goal is to introduce you to amazing people helping animals and share how you can get involved with animal rescue.  This podcast is proudly sponsored by Doobert.com. Doobert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters, and the only site that automates rescue relay transport.  Now, on with our show! Lindsay Wolko leads a mission that is personal to every pet owner with a keen understanding of the pet industry. She has authored safety standards for pet products, launched a certification program, council pet products manufacturers around the globe. And she works tirelessly for consumer and companion animal safety. Ms. Walcott has a background in project and program management as well as governance and controls development. Lindsay holds a bachelor’s degree from George Mason University and currently leads the research division of Center for Pet Safety. Hey, Lindsay, Thanks for coming on today. Hey, Chris, How are you doing? Great. So tell us. Tell us your story. Tell this kind of how you got to where you are. Well, you know, it’s this goes back to 2,000 for I had I was contacted by a woman in Wisconsin. She had a dog who was in a really bad place in situation. And she needed a, you know, urgent home for her. And I had her brother. That’s the Doge’s brother. So she shipped Maggie to me, and I picked her up a Memorial Day weekend two thousand four. Um, I didn’t even think about what I was going to do to travel with Maggie. So I had two dogs and creates in the back. I thought I was doing everything right. Yeah, And then Maggie was wandering all over the car and I didn’t even think about it. So one day I couldn’t find her in the car and I thought, OK, I’m paying more attention to where my dog is. Then what is going on in front of me? So I stopped by my local big box retail store, and I went to the travel section and found a safety harness for her, and it said it would protect her in a crash and protect me if we got in a crash. And that’s alright. Great. This is perfect truth again. I thought I did everything right. Ah, a few months later, I had to slam on the brakes to avoid a crash, and all I heard was screaming. It was horrible. I couldn’t get to her because I had to navigate all the chaos. And I’ve got this dog screaming in the back. She’s obviously in pain. She’s been hurt. So I finally was able to pull over and, you know, take care of Maggie and found that that safety harness that said it would protect everybody did nothing to protect Maggie. Mmm. So, you know, down the road, I joined the pet products industry. I wanted to look into product, you know, concerns. And, you know, see if see what? See if we could find better solutions for pet owners. And, you know, I went into the for profit side of this. And then I decided because of the stories I heard from pet owners and the questions we constantly received us like, Are these really gonna protect my pet in a crash? These things, they, they they’ve been crash tested, and they put it off for protection. So I did a pilot study. I decided that I was going to take the time to take this on and oh, I worked with a crash test laboratory and we developed a dog dummy that we could use to evaluate products put together this whole, you know, pilot study of we selected. I think 12 hardest is at the time and we selected for of those as our kind of control group. These don’t work, then the other ones we know won’t work kind of thing. And we did the testing, and we had a 100% failure rate of the harness is Oh, it’s terrible. Yeah, it So it just opened up. This whole can of worms were like, All right, so what are we going to do with this now? I’m curious. I mean, your background was not in testing harnesses, right? I mean, this is what was your background? Well, so I know, working program and project management. So in the software side of things, typically, right. But I do have some testing background, but it’s usually testing software applications. So it’s the same basic principles apply on DH. So I took that in the knowledge base, and we put together this programme, um and it just it just blossomed from there, and eventually we had a sponsor come aboard to help us on collect data. We had these data collection efforts. We could give the studies on harnesses and crates and carriers and pet travel seats, eh? So that we could see you know what? The manufacturers, you know, we’re claiming, and we could evaluate what the products actually could dio versus what they should do. Right? So now when? When did you form the Center for Pet Safety? Then? So, Senator, pet safety was founded after that pilot study in 2,011 so it could be conducted the study over 2,010 2 1,011 because we kind of had to feel our way through it. How are we going to manage this? This is a whole new, whole new world that we’re stepping into. And s o. I worked with a lot of engineers, got a lot of counsel, you know, spoke with a lot of people in the passenger safety space. The S O. C. P s was founded after we finished the testing, Uh, for the harnesses. When we wake, we discovered that this was actually the tip of an iceberg. So we’ve got we’ve got very bad performance here. We need to establish standards. Ah, for pet travel products. Actually, for all now it’s all Petra. All pet products need tohave standards. Most pet owners don’t even think about it, you know, and they think everything’s been tested because it’s you can buy it on the shelf. They It’s like if you go to go buy something for a kid, it’s all been tested. Yeah, So how did they get away with saying that it has been crash tested? If they’ve not really done that is challenging because, you know, some of the brands, they go to a test laboratory and they’ll publish. We had one brand that published, like, three seconds of footage, and they only showed the beginning part of the test, but they didn’t show what actually happened at the end. So while the product may have been crash tested, it may not have passed, and I say Okay, just because you just because you crash tested, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to hold up, and that’s where the safety standards have to come into play. So that’s way took that onto. So we’ve authored the first safety standards for travel products for pets. And now we’re actively measuring performance on a voluntary program, uh, called the Center for Pets Icky Certification program. So pet owners can, um, come to our website and find out, you know, the best products on the market for traveling with their pets. So how many products approximately ofyou guys tested now? Oh, hundreds. At this point, we’ve tested hundreds of products. At this point, I somebody asked me that a couple months ago. That was like, I’m gonna have to sit down and do a complete now, because it’s just we testing testing test. We’ve slowed down now since the studies finished up in 2,015. Okay, Now we’ve got this standard, so we rely. You know, the manufacturers now have to step up to the plate and say, Okay, this is important enough for our constituency that, you know, we’re gonna have you independently evaluate the product. So yeah, it’s it’s It’s been an interesting journey. Yeah, for sure. So now I’m curious that you’re you’ve tested hundreds is or any of them that particularly stand out to you. Oh, yeah. So this if you go to our website Center for Pet safety dot or GE, you will find, ah, the it’s called the CPS certified program. So we want pet owners to look for CPS certified. And if you click on the link on our website, it’ll take you to the list of products that have passed our testing based on independent valuation, and you will see that it’s not that many. Mmm, yeah, we’re not done. Many have passed. We’ve We’ve worked with brands in the background and they’re working towards their You know, we’re going to get there, but it it it’s a whole new world for the pet products industry to be helped Teo Standard. Yeah, that’s that is going to Cesar you seeing? And are you hearing positive response from the manufacturers when you are sharing with them the standards that you developed and you know how they can make their products better and safer? Well, I counsel hundreds of brands per years or whether it’s a independent inventor or engineers or, you know, you know, current, you know, product were current brands that are out there. They all want to work towards certification. At least they say they d’oh. So they come to us for knowledge and so we do share because that’s part of her mission, right? Who’s going to educate them and bring them up? Many of them are excited about it. And we actually have. I think we’re gonna have our first international certification. Likely coming up sometime within the next three months. Well, that’ll be exciting. So what’s different about the international one? Well, so most. We’re a non profit based in the United States. Okay, So you would think you most of the pet products in the world are made in the U. S. Are there the manufacturer’s reside in the U. S. Let’s put it that way. Um, so the majority of the market the U. S. Based So we’ve got friends that are in Canada in the UK, Australia, you know, all over the world that are working to meet our standards and have us independently evaluate the product. So that’s a big deal. If we get international certification, it just helps propel center for pet safety into a different realm. Tow. Where, then we become an international certification body. Yeah. Did you ever imagine that when you started this you be where you are today? No. No, I never did. I think I I never thought 20. If you ask me 20 years ago, if I would be doing pet product crashed nothing or, you know, working on studies with universities and PhDs and, you know, veterinary. And I would have said you’re out of your mind. I had no idea This is where life is going to take me. But you know, when someone hurts your dog, even though it wasn’t purposeful, right, that that changes you when you fall, all of a sudden you find out that you know, your your dog was injured and you have absolutely no recourse as a consumer other than to take that product back to the store and get your money back. It doesn’t cover the vet bills it doesn’t cover. You know, the pain and suffering the dog went through and a stress in time away from work that I had to take to take care of her. You know, things like that. It really opened your eyes. And I don’t want any pet owner to go through what I went through with Maggie s O. That’s really what drives this mission today. Uh, we we hear from people like a couple months ago, I would say about 68 months ago we heard from a woman and think you had her on your podcast from she founded Pipe. She founded Piper’s Walk. Good. Um, but she’s like, you know, my dog was killed in a crash and I want pet owners to understand, you know, that you have to have your pets restraint. Now, this is important. They need to know. I’m like, yeah, I get it. So she she understands where we’re coming from. She gets what’s the mission’s all about. And so she actually sponsored testing. She and her car, her organization, Piper’s walked out or GE sponsored testing. We’ve recently published that testing, and it was very eye opening for her. When she was that we invited her to the lab, we said, Hey, come on, watch this. You can. You’re going to help with testing. We want you hands on. So do you see what this mission is all about? Meet our crash test dogs understand the engineering that goes into this and all the work in the science that goes behind the evaluation for product? Yeah, the preparation just for the you know, the crash test rate to see, actually what what happens right and being able to see with the high speed cameras and seeing everything in slow mo and seeing the aftermath. Yeah, and just just looking at a product package. So one of the one of the products we tested was one that I was personally familiar with. But, you know, we had her select make the product selection. It’s like, All right, so let’s talk about your story. And what product would you be likely to choose for Piper? You know how she survived? She said, Well, I would have gone to my local big box store and I would’ve picked this one this particular one here because it says on the product package it’s crash tested and its weight rated for the weight of where Piper Wass. So we took one of our dogs and we made it the same way this piper and we put the harness on the dog and we crashed us Jit what does it hold up to? The marketing clinic and I think she was a little blown away by the result we published. The results of pet owners can go see the solve it Ta pa test results from on our website. So now what do you notice that typically happens with some of these harnesses. That’s giving ways. Is that the stitching? Is that the buckles? Yes. Okay. Yeah, General. Yeah. So they You know, a lot of these brands have plastic buckles. Plastics do not hold up in crash testing. We know that we know that stitching needs to be a certain design. It needs to be a certain type of thread. It needs to be the right kind of, you know, webbing. We’ve seen weddings melt in and come separated. We’ve seen hardware B to sharpen it cuts through the straps. We’ve seen buckles fail. We’ve seen stitching fail. It’s just it really comes down to the amount of work and due diligence that the brand to dio before they even start going, you know, do the due diligence testing that we we guide them through. Yeah. No. And you think I mean a product that specifically designed for this purpose, right? I mean, I like you. I see a lot of people that don’t even secure their animals in there, sitting on their laps and walking around. And you know, you just want to pull him over and shake him and say, Do you realize what’s going to happen to your dog if you get in an accident? But even for the ones that do secure them, it’s disappointed to hear that so many of these products really just fail, what with one purpose that they have right, and and that’s that’s what That’s why we exist, right? If if everything had worked in our pilot study and we had a 100% success rate, there would be no need for our organization. And it doesn’t that we’ve been in the travel space now since that pilot study, and this year we’re stepping out of that. So actually, 2,018 we have a whole new program we’re going to be launching later in the year s. So we’re very, very excited for that testing, and that’s the first we’re gonna step. We’re going to keep it our foot and travel, because that is so critically important and we’re going to be launching awareness campaigns with several different entities were very excited about. Those were goingto help educate pet owners, um, at like child seat checkpoints and things like that so we’re very excited about that. But we’re also launching a new program, a new study. Um, we’re working with the university now. Tio developed the testing apparatus that we’re going to need to do this. So we’re very, very excited about where the future holds for CPS. Yeah, that’s really exciting. Teo think that this has become such a passion Eri for your newfound a sze Yu said. This niche that is just completely, you know, White Open. There’s nobody that’s holding them accountable, and nobody that is certifying that these things do what they say they should write. And pet owners don’t even think about it. You know, it comes back to the fact that, you know, pet products are not classified as consumer products. So in the eyes, you know, Congress went through and, you know, they classified consumer products is one thing. So you have the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which has oversight, and they do, they manage, recalls, they mandate recalls. This’s all federally mandated stuff, right? And the pet products face, it’s the opposite. There’s no one out there consumer way have had some consumers where we had concerns about pet products that could injure pet owners. They’re human companion. We would send them to CPSC, and CPSC has taken those several of those. And they have published reports about product the pet products that could injure human. But they don’t look at whether it could hurt a dog or hurt a cat or whatever. So do you see some of these things starting to change? Now that you guys are raising awareness and getting more involved, it is changing. But it’s a slow right, so it’s educating. The education component is so critically important for us to help educate pet owners. We educate industry we work with. Like I said, we worked with brands around the globe to help you get them up the curve. Um, and it’s it’s It’s challenging, though, because there has to be the drive behind it for them. And pet owners really do need the education if they demand that a product is independently certified. That’s a that’s a game changer for us because we want pet owners to say, Look, you know, if CPS hasn’t looked at it and I’m not gonna buy it, I’m going to vote with my pocket book. I’m going to buy one of the products that has been independently verified for performance on. We’re hopeful that in the future, you know, this will continue to grow. Ah, and well, Seymour, participation from industry. Yeah. Now I know you guys, as you said with the foot and travel, right? So the harnesses and also the crates I myself was really surprised as to how some of the crates performed. What? I’m some of your testing, but what are the other types of products that you see you guys moving into? So we’re going to be looking at, you know, just everyday things you know, in your heart, your collars, leashes, walking harnesses. We’re going to be looking into toys. We will get into food. We are going to get into so many different areas that, you know, again, pet owners, too take her, granted that the products are safe. But we’ve had pet owners contact us from around the globe with product complaints. And so we are mounting investigations at a product level now where we will sample the product we have a complaint about, and we’ll see if we can replicate it. Um, recently, we had a woman contact us in her cat was electrocuted. Wow. From a water fountain. Really? Yeah. We have one of those just in our house. Yeah. So we are going to be looking at everything that’s out there. When we get these product complaints, pet owners can help us drive the mission. We’re going to send out a survey here it after the 1st 3 year, we need to hear from pet owners on, you know, where the areas that you’re the most concerned about. And have you had any problems with the product? If you have contact us, we need to know, and that will help push us, you know, forward and yeah. Yeah, I just I was just thinking myself. Lindsey, how do you find the time to do all this? Because this is this is obviously a passion for you and your expanding it into all these new areas. I’m very tired, E. I totally understand. Yeah. So this is a passion project for me. I do. You know, I would like to keep my house and keep a roof over my head and feed my dogs. So I do have to work a full time job. We’re not fully funded. I wish we were because then I could focus a 100% of my energies on Center for Pet Safety. We would likely be much further along than we are now. Um, but I you know, I want to keep my house and I don’t feel it’s appropriate for me to, um, you know, it’s just it’s challenge. It’s just knowledge. But I do nights and weekends. Um, and as much time as I can I spend on CPS and my boss has been really understanding. I love her. She’s awesome. So she gets it. That’s great. So what if somebody is listening to this? What can they do mean? Definitely buying right with their pocketbook will certainly help. Is there anything else that they can do that can help this cause? So yes. So we want pet owners to understand the reason the CPS certification program exists. Voting with your pocket book is extraordinarily important, but also we do in need cash flow to continue the testing. So we do ask for Petters. We are a five, a one c three nonprofit research, consumer advocacy and education organization. We do accept donations for pet owners and that that can be a game changer for us because the more money that we can raise will go into our testing kitty. And then we can take and start doing more in the test labs and developing more standards in that type of things so that we can help hold, You know, not only educate manufacturers and hold them accountable to those marketing claims, but we can make sure products are safe for pets. So yeah, and I know you kind of mentioned some things, but I’m curious. What is a typical week look like for you? I mean that doing a lot of stuff, nights and weekends. But what kinds of things? Well, it’s so we have ah program underway right now with the university on the West Coast. Um, and they it’s a fully funded research opportunity. So we’re grateful to our sponsor who wishes to remain anonymous. We are, You know, sit on the phone with them. Well, you know, do check in meetings, find out where they’re going, what kind of data they’ve been able to collect and gather. I will work on contracts and non disclosure agreements. That’s my thing. This weekend is I have to get all these contracts for 2,019 signed nondisclosure agreements signed so that we can kick off the new study going forward. Ah, it’s a lot of paperwork. It’s responding to pet owners. So we get a fair amount of calls from pet owners every week. And either, you know, I’ll respond to them. Be a phone or I will take time to send them an e mail. Um, you know, we have social media. We have questions come in through social media outlets. So it’s just a lot of follow up with pet owners because they’re very concerned about the products that are on the market right now. No, I definitely think you guys were raising awareness to a problem that you know people don’t always think about unless that’s happened to you. It’s not something that’s top of mine. And so I really appreciate the fact that you guys air doing this and that you personally write This has become your passion and the way that you’re helping animals. So kudos to you for a job well done. No, thank you. That’s very kind. But it’s, you know, if I just don’t want another pet on her to go through what we’ve gone through and you know when you see what we see in the lab. And we’re hopeful at some point that we can do some exhibition testing and invite pet owners and media to some of these so that they it’s even more eye opening when you see it in person. Um, you know, that’s it’s really it’s very, very important. And there’s lots of stories here to tell. Yeah, now I remember, you know, for many years ago, right? They’s have this thing called the convincer that you know, for seat belts and sit in it. It would only go I forget, like, 20 miles an hour. But, you know, just to show you the importance of a seat belt so demonstrating and people being able to see that like you talked about in an exhibition style, would I think would go a long way toe helping them to understand the importance. Yeah. I mean, the videos that we have on our website or very eye opening, as you can tell. But you’re not in the room, you’re not in the lab. You don’t see it firsthand. And I think the explosive nature of the testing that we’ve done in the crash test space, um, is very eye opening, and it reduces many witnesses to tears when they see the results. And that’s it’s just like, Wow, I can’t believe this. This is insane. You know, we get, we get varied responses. But all within that same kind of realm that just there there absolutely astounded that a manufacturer can make one claim and not have it hold up, right? Yeah, Well, Lindsay, it sounds like you guys have got a lot of things on your plate and a lot of things going on and a lot of things planned. Is there anything else you want to mention before wrap things up? No, I we’re here. If pet owners needed any good to center for Pet Safety Dot or GE, do you research before you buy right day and we’ve got a certification program for travel products Now, if it’s not on our list, it hasn’t passed our testing. It’s it’s challenging, and many brands have tried in many brands and failed, and we hope they come back and you know, but it’s up to them if they want to make the investment or if they simply want to rely on marketing spin. So that’s why we we pushed CPS certified, you know, centre for pet safety dot warg and look for CPS certified. That’s the best place to start when you’re researching pet travel product. Yeah, for sure. Well, Lindsay, thank you so much for coming on. The program today was great to talk to you. Oh, good talking to you, Chris. And I hope I hope I hope to talk to you again soon. Thanks for tuning into today’s podcast.  If you’re not already a member, join the ARPA to take advantage of all of the resources we have to offer.  And don’t forget to sign-up with Doobert.com. It’s free and helps automate the most difficult tasks in animal rescue.

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