You may be surprised to discover which is more likely to send you to the hospital…
Today’s post was inspired by a thought-provoking comment on FaceBook from Sarah Wilson who posted that:
Flexi lead has more, longer and more severe warnings for their product than say Glock by an extremely large margin.
This presented such a spectacularly delicious opportunity to pick on my least favorite dog training tool that I figured it couldn’t possibly be true. So I looked both documents up, and by golly she’s right. The Flexi lead’s product safety warning is over 1,400 words long. Glock’s is less than 250.
I understand that the number of words (or scary pictures) published in a product safety warning isn’t necessarily a fair indication of how dangerous an item is, but since is it’s no secret that I hate the ubiquitous retractable leash I decided to do a little research on accident statistics to see if I could turn up anything interesting.
The results of my search were absolutely jaw-dropping.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) 16,564 injuries associated with leashes required hospital treatment in 2007.
While CPSC doesn’t break the leashes involved down by type, based on a couple of decades spent obsessively watching people walk their dogs in all kinds of situations I very strongly suspect that the lion’s share of these injuries were caused by retractable leashes like the Flexi lead. And data provided by Consumer Reports appears to support my suspicion.
According to Consumer Reports:
The most common injuries reported were burns and cuts, usually sustained when the cord came in contact with skin as it rapidly paid out from the handle of a leash. Others occurred when the cord got wrapped around part of the owner or the dog.
The kinds of injuries described by Consumer Reports can only occur with retractable leashes like the Flexi lead. A good old-fashioned six foot long leather lead does not ‘pay out’ from a handle. It won’t give you rope burn and it doesn’t cut your hand when you grab it. The kind of leather leads favored by obedience competitors and skilled dog trainers are not likely to hurt you in day to day use. The same obviously cannot be said for retractable leads.
But how dangerous is a Glock?
The Center for Disease Control’s Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) is an interactive database that allows the public to create customized reports of injury-related data. Because I think it is probably safe to assume that only a vanishingly small number of leash injuries are intentionally inflicted (and a quick google news search for garrotings committed with leashes turned up absolutely no results) I decided it would be most accurate to compare leash injuries to unintentional firearm injuries. Running the numbers I discovered that in 2007 15,698 Americans received unintentional non-fatal firearm injuries.
So there you have it. While no one is likely to actually murder you with a Flexi lead, based on 2007 data compiled by the Center for Disease Control – you are more likely to be seriously injured by a leash than by the unintentional discharge of a firearm.
Think about that for a minute.
A tool that millions of pet owners use every single day is as likely be involved in an accident that sends you to the hospital as a gun is.
To take this a step farther, let’s consider how many more unintentional nonfatal injuries might have been caused by Flexi leads than Glocks in 2007.
FlexiUSA reports an annual revenue of about $3,900,000. Leads typically sell for $15-20 each so let’s be conservative and divide that number by $10. That means that approximately 390,000 Flexi leads are sold in the US each year. We’ll assume that each lead lasts an average of five years putting approximately 1,950,000 Flexi leads in American hands.
According to Glock 2,500,000 Glock pistols have been sold in more than 100 countries over the last 20 years. The Small Arms Survey published by Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva states that civilians own approximately 650 million firearms worldwide and Americans own some 270 million of them. So if Americans own, on average, 41.5% of all firearms let’s just assume that they also own 41.5% of all brands putting approximately 1,040,000 Glocks in American hands. If accidental gun injury statistics are consistent with brand that would mean that only 6,515 Americans were injured by the accidental discharge of Glock firearms in 2007.
So according to my estimate in 2007: 1,950,000 Flexi leads sent 16,564 people to the hospital (or about 0.85% of all users); and the accidental discharge of 1,040,000 Glocks sent 6,515 people to the hospital (about 0.6% of all users). This means that you are about 50% more likely to be seriously injured by a Flexi lead than an accident involving a Glock!
Of course it’s patently ridiculous to say that a Glock is inherently less dangerous than a Flexi lead. The real problem is that a frightening number of Americans have convinced themselves that mindlessly holding onto a plastic handle attached to a dangerously convenient retractable cord is a perfectly acceptable alternative for mindful dog training.
And thus we end up with a disturbing number of people who are the Flexi lead holding equivalent of this on the street:(NSFW) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpgL5kuBpMA
To paraphrase Plaxico “If you see a Flexi lead you leave that motha fucka alone! You go get a dog trainer, you go get some training…”