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Retractable Leads: A Deadly Invention
by Judy Kody Paulsen
(Excerpt from Summer 2004 issue of GCNM News)

The retractable lead: How did this dangerous device ever become so popular? Good marketing, bad idea – consisting of a plastic handle enclosing a spool upon which a cord coils or uncoils, depending upon the whim of the person in charge of the control button – and at the end of the cord is an innocent dog roaming under minimal control. They’re dangerous for people and deadly for the pets allowed to wander aimlessly at the distant end of the cord. Innocent bystanders have been encircled with cords as pets play a game of "ring around the rosie" and runners, walkers, and skaters have fallen flat when a meandering pet’s "handler" mindlessly allows the animal to skitter about on the fully extended tether.

Would you put a two-year old child on one of these? Imagine the disasters awaiting an infant allowed to venture that far away from its guardian. Then envision the power of a full-grown dog idly walking along whose attention is suddenly drawn to something of interest. If the handler is lucky or strong enough to control an unexpected lunge, there’s hope of grasping the handle firmly enough to stay with the canine missile. But if that hard plastic handle is dropped, you are likely to find a dead or severely wounded animal at the conclusion of the chase.

Particularly vulnerable to the dangers of the retractable lead is an animal that spooks easily or is shy. The sharp crack of a dropped or fumbled retractable-lead handle hitting a hard surface is enough to frighten even the most secure animal right out of his skin. You may as well be firing a pistol above your dog’s head, because the report is about equal to that of a small-caliber firearm. If the dog is fortunate enough to survive such an incident, you’ll be lucky to ever get him back on a leash again or for that matter, even out the door to go for a walk.

The excessively long cord is a hazard. Fully extended, this cord can become entangled in countless objects and can strangle your animal or others and can strip the hide from a leg that haplessly encounters this poorly visible tripping device. People and animals with visual handicaps cannot see this cord readily, especially when all they see is an animal rounding the bend with no apparent handler. And what about your dog’s surprise when he races around a corner into....whatever. There are all kinds of surprises lurking when retractable leads are being used, not the least of which could be a lawsuit.

Reprinted by permission of the author.

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