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The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.

Unrestrained Dog Nearly Causes Tragedy at the Tour de France

In terms of sporting events, France has had a very busy couple of weeks with the French Open (tennis) and now the 100th anniversary of the Tour de France (cycling). 

Typically, the French Open yields very little to report from the perspective of animals, but for an occasional bird landing on court to temporarily delay the match, but recently, there was a potentially more serious incident that occurred at the Tour de France. An unrestrained dog wandered out into the race route a short distance from the finish line of Stage 2 of the event and was nearly struck by a group of oncoming cyclists.

To add to the suspense, the owner then dashed out into the cyclists’ path to retrieve his dog only to see his canine companion turn and run to safety on the opposite side of the road. Both owner and dog almost caused a massive accident and barely escaped being “hit-by-bikes.”

The dog appears to be a light-colored (white or tan), long-tailed, small breed or mixed breed (terrier, Chihuahua, other), in good body condition, and able to move in an agile manner. Additionally, he apparently lacked any restraint with a leash that would have otherwise prevented the entire debacle from occurring.

The remarkable video can been seen on USA Today Sports: A Dog Nearly Caused a Massive Crash at the Tour de France

“It’s not a headwind we are dealing with, but a tailwind,” quipped NBC Sports commentator Steve Porino as he made some light of the situation.

Evidently, this wasn’t the first time an unrestrained canine has been involved in an cycling incident at the Tour de France. There were two other incidents where larger dogs (appearing to be chocolate and yellow Labrador Retrievers) were each hit by bikers, which can be seen in the following YouTube videos:

Tour de France Stage 9 Dog Crash

2007 Tour de France - Rider hits a dog, again!

It’s quite likely that these incidents of canine/human trauma and the recent near miss would have been avoided if the dogs were appropriately restrained by their owners. All of the dogs in these circumstances were off leash. Even if they were on leash, the ability for a dog to move away from its owner via a retractable lead could have similarly contributed to disaster.

I live in West Hollywood, where government has led the way in California for enacting local pet laws (e.g., banning declaw procedures and the sale of pets in stores). Unfortunately, a law banning the use of retractable leads didn’t quite pass in 2005 when West Hollywood attempted to create such an ordinance (see City Council Lashes Out At Leashes).

Fortunately, Los Angeles county already has a similar statute:

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.

I’m definitely not a fan of leashes that permit a dog to move beyond six feet away from its owner, including retractable leads. As compared to a flat fabric or chain-link leash (both non-retractable), the retractable lead reduces control of a dog’s mobility. These leads are typically composed of a strong, thin, circular or flat cord, which can cause severe tissue damage to an undeserving human or animal victim.

My clients and I have suffered personal injury as a result of irresponsible use of retractable leads by dog owners who neglected to employ adequate control over their crazy canines. One of my clients lost a finger, and I experienced a second degree burn across my arm after our respective limbs became ensnared in the lead. While on a retractable lead, a canine patient of mine walked some distance ahead of his owner on a West Hollywood sidewalk, was abruptly startled, then fell between two cars and fractured a leg.

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.

Although I’m pleased to learn that the dog and person involved with the 2013 Tour de France incident were unharmed, the lesson of proper pet restraint resonates loud and true.

Have you or your pets ever been injured as a result of lack of proper animal restraint?  Feel free to share your story in the comments section.

Dr. Patrick Mahaney

Image: Thinkstock


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