What Do I Do If I Hit An Animal Whilst Driving?

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\\\ Pets Hit By Vehicles

\\\ updated 15 October 2021

What Do I Do If I Hit An Animal Whilst Driving On The Public Highway?

Is It My Responsibility To Stop My Vehicle?

Animal life, both wild and domestic are constantly under threat from motor vehicles on our UK roads. Thousands of animals sadly die each year by being hit which is the largest cause of serious animal injury, which may not always be the cause of speeding.

Experts at The British Deer Society estimate that between 40,000 and 75,000 deer are killed in collisions on UK roads every year, causing losses of £11 million in damage to vehicles, and are not just country ‘B’ roads, or ‘A’ roads but a high proportion with reports suggesting 52% of collisions on motorways. This is an astonishing high figure and not a rare occurrence that can happen whilst you’re driving.

If it ever happens to you, like it has to us, there’s an extraordinary amount of guilt and sadness that the accident was possibly not preventable.

Road signs alert motorists particularly when driving in the countryside, however, pets, such as dogs and cats running across roads in villages and towns clearly are not anticipated, nor can be signed. 

Emergency stops may not be possible if you have other motorists close by and you become responsible if you swerve into someone else’ driving path if you cause an accident, however it is the pet owner’s responsibility to keep their pet secure. 

Do I have To Stop If I Hit An Animal Whilst Driving?

Whether the animal is dead or alive, you are bound by the law to stop if you hit an animal.

The Road Traffic Act 1988 states that legally, you must report hitting dogs to the police, and a number of farm animals, including dog, horse, cattle, sheep, pig or goat. but not cats or deer, and report the incident to the council. The government website has further details. 

Locating the pet owner is always the next best thing. With more and more dogs and cats being microchipped since microchipping became legal for dogs, April 2016, animals wearing collars and ID tags now makes the task of finding the owner easier. 

However, some pets knocked down may be in great pain and may not take kindly to you searching for collars, so calling the RSPC’s emergency service, telephone number 0300 1234 999, who can offer help and advice is advisable. 

The local council will take up matters of removing the animal particularly if the owner has not been located.

If the accident occurs in a residential area, it is likely that an owner may be missing their pet and may report the pet as lost, so it helps if you can report the incident promptly and seek vet help.

Sometimes, the pet may be very stunned, injured and bolt to a place of safety. It is still advised to report the incident so if a pet is reported as lost, they may be able to find the injured pet quickly.

Animals Most Likely To Be Hit By Drivers

Birds, cats, gamebird, deer, rabbit dog squirrel, fox, hedgehog, sheep, badger, cattle, and horses.

Always report any deer-vehicle collisions to the police and try to remember to record any deer-vehicle incidents at Deer Aware.

The RSPCA request that drivers do not try to handle or transport any injured deer, foxes, badgers, otters, swans, geese or birds of prey; keep a safe distance from them and call their emergency line for assistance.

The RSPCA also urge people to take care in dangerous locations, like a busy road, and ask people to always report any animal obstructing a highway to the police and call for help if you can’t reach the animal safely. You can read more at the RSPCA website

Contact the RSPCA’s 24-hour emergency line on 0300 1234 999.

Follow these important actions at the scene of the accident – It may help the animal’s speedy recovery

  1. Park your care safely. Put on hazard lights where appropriate.
  2. Make sure any other vehicles nearby can pass your parked vehicle.
  3. Approach the animal with caution as they may be in great pain. They may try to bite or lash out.
  4. If they do not seem alert, stroke them gently to see if they respond. You can check for consciousness by gently tapping near the inside corner of their eye.
  5. Check the animals pulse on the animals underside below the elbow.
  6. Check where there is bleeding and associated injuries. If possible slide a blanket under the animal and lift them gently into your car. A heavier animal may need two people or more to carry them.
  7. Make the animal feel comforted as this helps to keep them calm.
  8. Find out where the nearest veterinary practice is. Call them and inform them you have an injured animal. If out of normal hours, you may be relocated to a different emergency centre.
  9. It’s always best to take them to a vet to be checked over as they may be suffering from internal injuries without you being aware.
  10. You should exchange details with anyone else involved at the accident, or report the incident to the police within 24 hours.
  11. Before driving off, you should check your vehicle has not been significantly damaged.

Is Hitting An Animal Treated As A Car Accident?

Whose Fault Is It Hitting An Animal?

How Do I Claim For The Damage To My Vehicle?

If your car is damaged or the driver or passengers are injured as a result of a collision with an animal, you should be able to claim on your car insurance but you do need to check your policy terms and conditions.

If the animal is a domestic animal with an owner, and you consider they are responsible for their pet causing the accident, then you may be able to claim on your driving insurance policy.


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