Are Retractable Dog Leashes Legal?
If you do any research on retractable dog leashes, you’re likely to come across the following claim: retractable dog leashes are dangerous, so you shouldn’t use them, but even if they weren’t dangerous, they’re also illegal, so you can’t use them anyway!
In many cases, both of these claims are simply not true. First, retractable dog leashes aren’t dangerous, or at least, they aren’t any more dangerous than traditional, fixed-length leashes, especially when they’re being used properly.
And second, retractable leashes typically aren’t illegal either. The idea that they are illegal is simply a misunderstanding of how leash laws work, which we’ll cover in just a moment.
While we’ve already explained the myth that retractable leashes are bad for dogs elsewhere, this post will go through where the idea that retractable leashes are illegal comes from, and then explain how to find out if they’re legal or illegal where you live and walk your dog.
To start the conversation, we need to introduce you to a legal concept called “Dog Leash Laws”, which you may have never heard of before, but which you will want to look into to ensure you’re being a responsible dog owner.
What are Dog Leash Laws?
Dog Leash Laws are likely the source of the misconception that retractable leashes are illegal. But how has that happened?
Simply put, dog leash laws are the set of rules that govern the way you can, and cannot, walk your dog. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), there isn’t a single set of dog leash laws that govern the entire United States, or entire States.
Most towns, cities, or counties have the option of passing their own laws regarding dogs, including what types of leashes can be used to walk them!
To find out whether or not retractable dog leashes are legal where YOU live, you’re simply going to have to look into the dog leash laws that govern your area.
To find out what leash laws apply to you, we suggest conducting a series of Google searches, reading through the laws that are returned, and then determining which of them you should be following.
As an example, if you lived in Santa Monica, a city in Los Angeles County, California, here are the searches we suggest you make to find out which leash laws apply to you:
- California Dog Leash Laws
- Los Angeles County Dog Leash Laws
- Santa Monica CA Dog Leash Laws
Once you’ve looked at the laws from each of these locations, you should be able to figure out what’s allowed, and more importantly, what’s not allowed in your area.
Why do you need to look at dog leash laws to find out if your retractable leash is legal or illegal? Because in recent years, some locations (especially larger, urban areas like big cities) have passed dog leash laws that set a maximum limit for the length of dog leashes.
These are the laws that the anti-retractable dog leash crowd refers to when they state that retractable leashes are illegal, but that may not be the case, as we’ll soon see.
Do Dog Leash Laws Outlaw Retractable Dog Leashes?
In most cases, or at least for all of the cases that we reviewed, the answer is clearly no. Dog leash laws do not specifically outlaw retractable dog leashes.
In fact, of all the dog leash laws that we reviewed, none of them even mentioned the term “retractable” dog leashes at all.
Instead, what most of these laws seem to be doing is setting a maximum length for how long dog leashes can be.
For example, the city of San Francisco has a leash law (Sec. 41.12 of the city’s health code) requiring that all dogs off personal property must be on a leash no longer than 8 feet in length.
And here’s where things get tricky. We looked into this, but couldn’t find a solid answer on whether or not that means you can’t use a retractable leash which COULD be 10 feet, but which has been and remains retracted to 8 feet during your walk.
If you run into a local dog leash law like the above, you may also be left wondering what is ACTUALLY legal, and to get a clear answer, you may simply have to call or email the town, city, or county authorities to ask for clarification on the rules.
The good news for many of you is that when you look into dog leash laws, you’re likely to find that your local area has no dog leash law on the books, or that it does, but that they don’t limit the length of your leash.
In that case, a retractable leash is likely to be legal, unless some other ordinance specifically outlaws it.
So - Are Retractable Dog Leashes Legal Then?
Again, it depends on where you live, and on how the laws are interpreted by your local authorities.
If you have any doubt, but want to know for sure, we suggest Googling for details about local dog leash laws in your area, then calling or emailing the relevant authorities with any follow-up questions.
You’re probably going to find out that retractable leashes are totally legal where you live, and because we all know that retractable leashes are better than traditional leashes, you’re almost certainly going to want to try one out.
If you’re still on the fence about whether or not using a retractable leash is a good idea, then simply visit our Blog Post on the pros and cons of retractable dog leashes.
And while you may have heard some of the horror stories about the “dangers” of retractables, from old wives tales about retractable leashes breaking to their being illegal, we’re quite sure you’ll agree that their convenience far outweighs any potential “risks” they may pose.
Once you’ve decided that you want to use a retractable leash, we hope you’ll take our advice on how to choose the right leash for your dog!
How to Pick the Right Retractable Dog Leash
To make sure you’re using the right leash, please make sure to review our Guide on Finding the Perfect Retractable Dog Leash.
Or, if you’re in a hurry, just make sure to keep these three important points in mind:
- Pick a retractable leash that will last, as any leash becomes dangerous when parts start to wear, break down, or fail completely, and the last thing you’ll want is a leash that only lasts for a little while before starting to exhibit operational problems
- Get a retractable leash that’s rated for your dog’s size and weight, as you wouldn’t want a leash that’s too heavy-duty for them (which they’re forced to drag around, exhausting them and making for an uncomfortable walk), but you certainly don’t want one that’s undersized which could end up failing during use
- Make sure to get a retractable leash that’s only as long as you really need. Some people simply buy the longest leashes available, just because they can get them, but you’ll be stuck carrying all that extra ribbon around and you’ll be more likely to get tangles if you go with an ultra-long leash. Most people find a 15 foot long extendable leash to be perfect for their everyday needs
To save yourself time on comparison shopping and to ensure that you get a high-quality retractable leash, we suggest shopping for your next leash at Pet & Cuddle!
Shop Pet & Cuddle’s retractable dog leashes, dog collars and dog harnesses here.