Enter one of the most controversial pet products and controversial topics in the pet accessory world today: “The Retractable Leash.”

Named the 2013 “Hottest Pet Product of the Summer” by The American Pet Products Association (APPA), literally just the mention of this device will have pet parents all over the world at arms.

This product is either loved or loathed. I’m talking more controversial than Kanye West here people!

First, if you surf through social media, you will find a whole host of articles written about the dangers of these leashes. Just Google retractable leash and read away!

You see, apparently these retractable devices were not designed for an everyday walk around the block, according to Jon Bastian, senior editor of a popular training website. “Retractable leads have a purpose, and it’s very specific. They were originally designed for certain types of tracking and recall training with dogs. If you don’t know what those are, then you have no reason to own or use a retractable lead. You should never use such a lead for just walking your dog.”

Throughout the years, because of clever marketing, manufacturers have morphed this training device into an all-purpose everyday device. Now, due to a lack of education on how to properly use a retractable leash, a ton of injuries worldwide have come about.

According to Consumer Reports and the Consumer Union’s analysis of statistics collected in 2007:

“There were 16,564 hospital-treated injuries associated with pet leashes. Of those, about 10.5 percent involved children 10 and younger; 23.5 percent involved injuries to the finger. The CPSC’s data does not deconstruct the leashes into types but it’s likely that the amputations were caused by retractable leashes.

The most common injuries reported were burns and cuts, usually sustained when the cord came in contact with skin as it rapidly reeled out from the handle of a leash. Others occurred when the cord got wrapped around part of the owner or the dog.”

With all these injuries surfacing from around the globe, this forced the manufacturers of these devices to have to add warning labels to each retractable product sold.

The warnings listed on the website of the Germany-based Flexi, one of the largest manufacturers of the retractable leashes, state:

“To avoid the risk of eye or face injury and cuts, burns, and amputations to your body or the body of another person from the leash cord/tape or all belt and hook, read and follow these Warnings and Directions for Use before using your Flexi leash.”

In 2014, world-renowned veterinarian Doctor Karen Becker wrote an internet breaking article on the matter entitled “10 Reasons Not to Use a Retractable Leash” (

Ok, now if that wasn’t enough info to cause some grumbles from the lovers of the retractable world, the following will add fuel to the fire:

The retractable leash is banned in more than 50% of the united states and canada due to the length restrictions in the new leash laws.

Of course, some laws state that you can still own the device. However, you are not allowed to extend it past a certain point. And, to make matters worse, pet owners have absolutely no idea!

“The use of retractable leashes is already illegal in many places such as the city of San Francisco and all California state parks. These places have laws requiring dogs to be on leashes that are six feet in length or less.” – Dr. Eric Barchas

Heck, even in my tiny hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia, our by-laws just got tighter when it comes to the retractable leash.

“Leash length: There never was one before. Now the length has been set at three meters. Dog trainers will be happy about this because it bans the use of most retractable leashes, which are deemed dangerous and do not support having care and control of your dog at all times.” – Pat Lee, The Chronicle Herald

The moral of the story is, no matter when & where this topic comes up, this device will remain a red-hot controversial issue. Amputated body parts, injuries, accidents or even world wide bans, however, will not stop pet parents of the planet from loving their retractable leashes as you will see from the comments in this post.

My take, for what it is worth: If you are debating purchasing a retractable leash, save your money and don’t bother. However, if you already own one and know how to use it properly, then go ahead and rock it. (Until the ban makes it to your city of course.)

Rodney Habib

“An educated, informed and well-researched community of pet owners can only put more pressure on the pet food industry to be better! When pet owners know better, they will only do better!”