As summer officially begins, dog lovers spread the important message ‘Dogs Die in Hot Cars’. It is one of the few campaigns that is supported by both the Countryside Alliance and the RSPCA, and every welfare organisation and animal charity in between. Police issue warnings and posters can be seen in shop windows across town. But there is another danger to dogs that becomes even more widespread during summer and is one that is not widely discussed or often prioritised; extendable leads.
We’ve all seen it. A dog so far in front of its owner that from a distance it appears to be walking freely, yet on closer inspection the thin cable attached to a plastic handle becomes visible. In an open field or park location this is not usually a problem, unless of course the dog in question is being kept ‘under control’ for reasons such as aggression (how can you possibly control a reactive dog if it is miles in front of you?). If the dog is on an extendable lead simply because it has an unreliable recall and the owner is concerned that their pet would disappear into the undergrowth if it was running free, then there is no real issue with the use of an extendable lead. What is definitely an issue, however, is the use of these devices when walking on footpaths, particularly those adjacent to busy main roads. This is a surprisingly common sight. About a week ago I witnessed what was nearly a horrific accident when a Staffie on an extendable lead strolled out, cool as you like, straight out into the path of an oncoming car. Its owner didn’t react quickly enough to press the ‘stop’ button function on the lead, and if the driver of the vehicle had been distracted for whatever reason, she wouldn’t have been able to react quickly enough either. Thankfully her eyes were on the road and she managed to brake in time. Worryingly the owner didn’t seem at all bothered that his pet had almost become roadkill and he continued on his walk without so much as a pat of his dog. This isn’t the first time that I’ve seen first hand the dangers that extendable leads present; I was once a passenger in a car when a Labrador decided it fancied a change from the footpath and walked out into the road, its owner helplessly clutching the extendable lead to which it was attached. Again the driver, my mum, managed to avoid hitting the dog, but only by a fraction. The incident left us both quite shaken and certainly angry. Most people wouldn’t think twice about having their dog off the lead next to a main road, so why is it acceptable to have them on an extendable lead, which offers such little control?
It isn’t always a happy ending. Earlier this month reports of the death of a Jack Russell, which ran into the road when the ‘lock’ mechanism failed on her lead, were included in local papers in Hampshire. Yet this is a message that needs to reach the public on a national scale. There have been instances of whiplash and broken bones linked to the use of extendable leads. Owner injuries have also been documented, including burns and sliced fingers from the cable. From my own, admittedly little, experience with these leads (we have never used one with our own dogs), it appears impossible that, should the need arise, you would be able to regain complete control over your dog. Our own reactions are just not quick enough, and once the dog is in a potentially dangerous situation, it is too late.
So here’s another doggy safety message for this summer – If you’re going to use an extendable lead, make sure it’s in a safe, open area, and always keep your dog under close control at the side of a road. Just like not leaving a dog in a hot car, it’s common sense, yet worryingly this is not always applied.
Do you agree? Have you had a similar experience with extendable leads? Comment below!