After her dog was nearly strangled in an elevator, Toronto woman ditches retractable leash

A Toronto woman is urging dog owners to stop using retractable leashes after her puppy was nearly strangled inside an elevator.

The dog descended 2 floors in the elevator, hanging by its neck from the leash

Emily Pinckard calls her four-month-old puppy a 'miracle dog' after he was nearly strangled in a Toronto elevator by a retractable leash. (Nick Boisvert/CBC)

A Toronto woman is urging dog owners to stop using retractable leashes after her puppy was nearly strangled inside an elevator. 

The incident happened about two weeks ago, when Emily Pinckard left her condo elevator with her four-month-old Aussiedoodle Oscar.

"I reached into my pocket to grab my keys and while I did that, he bolted back into the elevator just as the doors were closing," she said.

As the elevator descended two storeys to the ground floor, the retractable leash lifted Oscar into the air by his collar. Pinckard unlocked the leash, hoping it would extend far enough to give her pet some slack.

As the elevator went down, Pinckard frantically punched buttons to call it back. By the time it reappeared, she saw her dog hanging in a semi-conscious state, his urine splashed high on the walls.

"The door opened and he actually fell in front of me," she remembered. "I thought, 'He's gone. He's been strangled.'"

The leash became frayed by the locking mechanism during the incident. (Mark Bochsler/CBC)

But within seconds, Oscar popped up and ran into Pinckard's apartment. A veterinary exam the next day revealed that the dog wasn't injured.

"I was shocked," said Dr. Scott Bainbridge of the dog's near-instant recovery. The Dundas West Animal Hospital veterinarian said Oscar is the first dog he has known to survive such an elevator incident in 20 years.

"I've had two other cases and unfortunately they were adult dogs and they didn't survive it," he said, crediting the "rubber"-like anatomy of young animals.

Elevator, retractable leash warnings

Bainbridge said incidents like Oscar's should no longer be considered freak accidents, given that it's common for condo and apartment dwellers in Toronto to have dogs.

A post about Oscar's story that's on his clinic's Facebook page has been shared more than 1,600 times, with multiple commenters sharing similar stories.

To prevent more dogs from potentially being strangled, Bainbridge and Pinckard are reminding owners to be extra cautious around elevators and to ditch long retractable leashes that can make dogs difficult to control.

Some of those leashes can extend to nearly five metres long.

"It's going in the garbage," Pinckard said of her leash, which she purchased to use at her cottage.

"Now I'm warning everybody, whenever I see somebody in my building using a retractable leash."

Leashes 'shall not exceed two metres'

Retractable leashes are readily available at pet stores, but many do not conform to city bylaws, which stipulate that dogs in public spaces must be attached to a leash that "shall not exceed two metres in length."

Dr. Scott Bainbridge recommends short, standard leashes to prevent owners from losing control of their dogs. (Mark Bochsler/CBC)

In the off-leash area at High Park, dog owners were split on the benefits and drawbacks of the leashes.

"When we're in the on-leash area, she likes to run around a little bit," said Ann Ball about her pet. "It gives her a bit of freedom."

Jeff Beaton said he used to use a retractable leash with his dog, but recently stopped.

"When a dog's on a leash, it should be on a leash and it should be under control. I just personally didn't like it."

Bainbridge said that he recommends standard, short leashes to his clients, as they can help keep dogs safe around elevators and elsewhere.

"The nice thing I like about a really solid short leash is that you can keep your dog really close."

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