Retractable Leashes – Use at Your Own Risk

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Eye injuries, burns, facial lacerations, broken teeth and amputations – the apparent dangers of using retractable dog leashes. Sounds terrible, right?

Heather Todd would agree. While walking her dog Penny near Boston, the retractable leash Todd was using looped around her index finger and severed it when Penny started running, according to Consumer Reports.

“It just cut it off like a sharp knife,” Todd says.

Doctors were unable to reattach the finger, said CR.

Burns and cuts are the most common injuries associated with the leashes, but Germany-based leash manufacturer Flexi includes a frightening list of potential injuries on a Web page devoted solely to special precautions and leash directions. Among them:

  • Finger amputations and fractures.
  • Eye and facial injuries, including broken teeth, cuts, bruises and eye damage.
  • Falls.
  • Injuries to bystanders.

Many pet experts warn against using retractable leashes. Florida veterinarian Dr. Lisa Radosta, in a post on petMD, described a number of reasons why she thinks the leashes are not a good alternative for many dog owners. But she said the leashes may be a good option for some dogs.

Older dogs who don’t pull and are well-mannered are good candidates for these leashes. Of course, even older, well-mannered dogs should be kept on 4- to 8-foot leashes if they are in busy areas so that they don’t get into trouble.

I’ve used retractable leashes with my two big dogs. We’ve had no injuries, besides a minor hand burn. But sometimes I forget that I don’t have the leash in the “lock” position and at the first sight of a rabbit or another dog, my dogs will bolt, and it’s difficult to reel the leash back in quickly.

Were you surprised by the nature of injuries from retractable dog leashes? Do you use a retractable leash? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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Comments & discussion

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  • BukaHanersib

    I’ve used retractable leashes for years with my dogs. It’s sad that a few people have sustained injuries, but there is some degree of risk with anything you do or any product you use. I feel like the enjoyment my dog gets from the added freedom far outweighs potential risks.

  • Webist

    Damage another company with sensational reporting. How about a story on injuries from closing doors? Or maybe injuries caused by tripping over a pacifier? Are we looking for absolute safety or fodder for litigators?

  • Jason

    If you wrap a regular leash around your finger it will get severed just as easily as with a retractable leash. People have also had their hands amputated playing tug-of-war when they wrapped the rope around their wrist. Solution: Don’t wrap ropes or leashes around body part and then pull on them.

  • Dixie

    I can see those type of injuries occurring while using those leashes, as dogs can be powerful animals. However, I think the worst thing about using those type of leashes is that when using one completely let out, you no longer have your dog under your control. Your dog could attack someone or another animal and by the time you could react and try to reel the dog back in, the damage is done. I have read/heard of several lawsuits over dog bites caused by dogs on retractable leashes. In every case, the dog owner was found to be at fault because they did not have their dogs under their control. I, myself have been tripped twice by dogs running around on a retractable leash. Both times, I was walking along the sidewalk and the dog ran over in front of me, tripping me. I think if you are out in a large open area with no other people or animals around, they are ok to use. When walking on designated trails, on sidewalks or other public areas, a dog should be on a short leash. I also think retractables are a reward for bad behavior; the dog pulls, the owner lets the leash out, teaching the dog to pull.

  • Susan Riley

    I have a permanent scar around my ankle from when a clueless neighbor let her dog run around my leg and the leash cut deeply into my skin.