How to React When You Hit a Pet With Your Car

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Every year, millions of cats and dogs are hit and either injured or killed by motorists. While this can present a tragedy for the driver, the pet, and its owner, knowing what to do when this happens can potentially save the pet's life and protect you if there is any involvement with the law.

Method 1 of 1: What to do when you hit a dog or cat while driving

Materials Needed

  • First aid kit (you can also find kits made specifically for pets)
  • Large jacket, blanket, or tarp
  • Muzzle (to keep the animal from biting you when treating or moving it)

Knowing what to do when you hit a dog or cat can mean the difference between life or death for someone's beloved pet. You can also prevent further injury or even death to the animal and yourself by taking some basic precautions.

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Image: DMV California
  • Warning: Keep in mind that there are laws in many states detailing what you must do when your vehicle hits or is hit by certain animals. If you do not follow the law in your state, you could be charged with leaving the scene of an accident and cruelty to animals. It is best to educate yourself on these laws in your own state and any state you plan on traveling to. You can find out more about your state’s laws on animal collisions by looking through the driver’s handbook in your state.

Step 1: Pull over to the side of the road safely. Once you realize you have hit a dog or cat, stop immediately.

If you can't stop immediately, pull off the road as soon as possible. The animal may still be alive and in need of medical attention.

  • Warning: Pull your vehicle as far to the right as you can when stopping to allow yourself plenty of room when exiting your vehicle.

In addition, when exiting your vehicle to check on an injured animal, make sure that no cars are coming.

Step 2: Notify the police. Call the police to notify them that there has been an accident.

Dogs and cats are considered personal property, so you must notify the police if they are hit by your car.

The 911 dispatcher should connect you to animal control and send a patrol car to your location.

Step 3: Move the animal to safety. Move the animal, if necessary and allowed by state law, to get it out of the flow of traffic and to keep it from getting hit again or causing an accident as other motorists try to avoid the animal in the road.

For dogs, use a muzzle for the mouth to keep them from biting you or wrap gauze or a piece of clothing around their mouth instead.

Gently wrap a large blanket, coat, or tarp around the animal to make moving it safer for you. If the animal seems aggressive, do not approach it and wait for the police to arrive.

Step 4: Contact the owner. Notify the owner if possible by getting the information off of the pet's tag.

If you are in a residential neighborhood and the pet doesn't have a tag, you can ask around at houses in the area to see if anyone knows who the animal belongs to.

Step 5: Wait for help to arrive. Stay with the animal until help arrives in the form of the police, animal control, or the pet owner.

While waiting, you can attempt to stop any bleeding by applying pressure to the injured area.

  • Warning: Remember, if the animal seems aggressive, try to muzzle it first and wrap it in a tarp, blanket, or jacket before applying any medical aid.

Step 6: Consider taking the animal to the vet. Take the animal to a veterinarian only if the animal is hurt badly and you feel doing so could save its life.

If you decide to do so, make sure you know where you are going before leaving.

Also, notify the police, or 911 dispatcher, that you are taking the animal to the veterinarian hospital for treatment.

  • Tip: You should also consider calling ahead to the veterinarian if you have their number. Tell them what has happened, the condition of the animal, and how soon they can expect you to arrive.

Step 7: File a report. Once the pet has been helped, you can approach the police about filing a report so you can repair any damage to your vehicle.

In most states, pet owners are responsible for keeping their pets under control at all times.

Those who fail to do so can be held liable for any damage that occurs as a result of their pet roaming free.

Dealing with an accident involving a pet, such as a dog or cat, can be traumatic for all involved, including the driver, pet owner, and especially the pet. By reporting the accident when it happens, you can hopefully get the animal the help it needs while protecting your own interests at the same time. To assess any damage to your vehicle following an accident, you can get in touch with an experienced mechanic to advise you on what you need to get repaired so you can get back on the road.


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