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Will West Hollywood Follow UK and Fine Dog Owners for Using Retractable Leads

While visiting England, I enthusiastically read a Daily Telegraph article titled “Dog owners banned from using long leads.” Evidently, my perspective on the retractable lead, one of my least favorite pet products, is shared by United Kingdom government. Tameside (in Greater Manchester) city council enacted an ordinance to reduce the public health nuisance caused by irresponsible owners using excessively long leads. Public spaces are repeatedly being fouled by dog owners not picking up their dog’s bowel movements. Evidently, requiring dogs to be on a shorter lead increases the likelihood owners will clean up after their pet. Besides the odor and other obvious unpleasantries carried by dog bowel movements, improperly disposed waste can potentially spread parasites, bacteria, and viruses to other canine community members and wildlife. The rule bans dogs from being walked on leads longer than 6 feet 5 inches in local parks. Other spaces, such as school playing fields and cemeteries, have banned dogs all together. Tameside police are being trained on how to best enforce the new rule. The ordinance is being met with disdain by various members of the community. Dylan Sharpe, the campaign director of Big Brother Watch (connected with Taxpayers’ Alliance campaign group) stated "This proposal is completely barking mad - only a local authority would even think of fining people £1,000 because of the length of their dog lead. This is just the latest in a steady stream of potty policies that try to criminalize and fine innocent dog walkers." The Kennel Club, Britain's largest dog welfare organization, declared the ordinance “completely arbitrary” and “unnecessary.” Tameside council has defended its policy, as the intent is to make public spaces more enjoyable for all citizens. Other local governments in Greater Manchester are also considering similar pet waste reducing rules. As a veterinary medical professional, I commend Tameside and all other United Kingdom governments enacting such ordinances. West Hollywood government has lead the way in California for enacting local pet health care laws. Although I don’t agree (see Different POV On Cat De-Clawing From WeHo Vet), West Hollywood law makes it illegal for veterinarians to perform an onychectomy (declaw) procedure on cats not having a medical necessity for the procedure. My views are more aligned with West Hollywood banning the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores (see Our Companions: Banning Mill-Bred Animals Solves Only Part Of Problem). Perhaps Tameside’s rule will inspire West Hollywood government to similarly ban the use of retractable leashes. There was an attempt to create such an ordinance in the past (see City Council Lashes Out At Leashes), yet Los Angeles county already has a similar statute as follows: 10.32.010 Dogs -- Running at large prohibited No person owning or having charge, care, custody or control of any dog shall cause, permit or allow the same to be or to run at large upon any highway, street, lane, alley, court or other public place, or upon any private property or premises other than those of the person owning or having charge, care, custody or control of such dog, in the unincorporated area of the county of Los Angeles, unless such dog be restrained by a substantial chain or leash not exceeding six feet in length and is in the charge, care, custody or control of a competent person. A component of the problem is the “competent person,” as a responsible dog owner certainly can keep a dog under control while on a retractable lead at a length of less than six feet. Unfortunately, there are many irresponsible owners using the retractable leads in a less than responsible way who create problems for the public at large. These leads are typically composed of a strong, thin rope, which can cause severe damage to body tissue. My clients and I have suffered personal injury as a result of irresponsible use of retractable leads by dog owners neglecting to employ adequate control over their crazy canine. One of my clients lost a finger and I experienced a second degree burn across my arm after our respective limbs became ensnared. Additional animal safety concerns include a higher possibility a dog will incur injury while being walked on a retractable lead. As compared to a flat fabric or chain-link leash (both non-retractable), the retractable lead permits reduced control of a dog’s mobility and increases the likelihood of trauma (see Jessica Simpson's Dog, Daisy, Missing After Coyote Attack). While on a retractable lead, a canine patient of mine walked some distance ahead of his owner on a sidewalk, was abruptly startled, then fell between two cars and fractured a leg. To promote the physical and mental health of canine and human inhabitants, I hope West Hollywood (and other cities and states) will eventually apply a similar rule. Perhaps public spaces would contain less dog waste and fewer people and pets would end up injured or ill. Thank you for reading my article. To receive my next article via email, please press the “Don’t Miss a Blog Post” button on the right upper corner of this page. Copyright of this article is owned by Dr. Patrick Mahaney, Veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. Republishing any portion of this article must first be authorized by Dr. Patrick Mahaney. Requests for republishing must be approved by Dr. Patrick Mahaney and received in written format. Visit for contact information.
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