The BBC news website carried a story today that was shocking, not because it carried a story of a handler being injured seriously by a retractable lead but because she was the 31st person to have required hand surgery in the last 16 months in Cornwall alone.
Yes, you read that correctly. In 2018 30 people required surgery to their hand after being injured by a retractable lead in just one English county. Cornwall has a winter population of approximately 536,000 which can swell to 850,000 in the summer. It is probably not unreasonable to assume that the relatively high number of injuries might be due to summer visitors not feeling that they have adequate recall when their dog is in an exciting, unfamiliar environment and using flexible leads to compensate. I have asked the British Society for Surgery of the Hand who collated the figures, if they can provide statistics for the whole country.
In the meantime, it is better that a dog is not off-lead if recall isn’t reliable. No one can achieve 100% reliability, but the injuries would all be preventable by owners undertaking effective, non-aversive training and using loose lead walking and long lines when being off-lead is not possible.
We’re still waiting for a ban on shock collars to be added to the AWA. Whilst stopping handlers from electrocuting dogs must take precedent, it is high time that the welfare considerations to dogs and handlers were taken into consideration and these wretched leads are also banned from sale and use.
In the meantime, it behoves enlightened owners and trainers to explain why they are a dangerous menace before any more people suffer life-changing injuries.