Last year, while driving to work, I was unfortunate enough to witness a deer being hit by a car on the road ahead. The driver failed to stop so I called the police, who then called a vet. Thankfully, the deer survived but it made me think about the injustice of animals, both domestic and wild, who are the victims of accidents on our roads every day and have to die alone and in pain. Surely the benefit of owning and driving a car should be balanced by a corresponding responsibility to put right any harm caused by it? After all, animals do not benefit from cars or roads in general so why should they be burdened with the associated hazards?
My hope is that this year we are moving closer to making drivers responsible for all animals they encounter on the roads. Until now, pursuant to Section 170 of The Road Traffic Act 1988, the driver of a ‘mechanically propelled vehicle’ (love the wording!), must stop and report an accident to the police if they hit any horse, cattle, ass, mule, sheep, pig, goat or dog. The Act states that a driver must do this as quickly as possible whether the animal is killed or not. However, this still excludes cats and many other animals.
The Cats Bill is currently on its way through Parliament and may go some way towards addressing this gap in the law. The Bill was introduced by Rehman Chishti MP as a private member’s bill and had its first reading in The House of Commons in July 2018. The Bill proposes that a driver involved in an accident resulting in injury or death to a cat will have to stop and give information or report the accident to the police. Additionally, keepers of certain cats will have to make sure they are microchipped.
If enacted, the law will give closure to the families of cats who are lost and feared dead, it will also mean that injured cats will not simply be put down because their families cannot be traced and it will encourage record-keeping in relation to such incidents so that more information is available to animal welfare organisations.
The Bill is a step in the right direction but I believe we need to go further and make drivers responsible for all animals they hit. Hopefully this, in turn, will also have the positive effect of encouraging drivers to take more care and slow down. The bill is currently listed for a second reading in The House of Commons and we await news of when this will take place.
If you see an animal injured on the road, both the RSPCA and Cats Protection give some useful advice on their websites at: https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/wildlife/injuredanimals and: https://www.cats.org.uk/. If a cat is injured, getting them to a vet should be the priority, try to phone the vet’s practice in advance so they can be prepared. Take warm blankets with you on car journeys and a cat carrier, if you have one, in case you need to transport an injured cat to a vet’s surgery. Alternatively, if you are unable to transport the animal yourself you can call the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999.
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