Depending on the time of day, where the sun is in the sky, or the type of obstacles in your way (like trees, signs, other cars, etc.), it can sometimes be difficult to see things in the road when you’re driving.
This is especially true when things are moving quickly — like a dog running into the street and right in front of your car!
There are actually laws in place in most cities about what you must do if you hit someone’s pet with your car. I was surprised to find that there is little information regarding this online, but there is certainly a lot of discussion about it, and most people have the wrong information.
To help set the record straight, here is what you must do if you hit someone’s pet…
1. You have to stop.
You cannot just hit someone’s pet and drive off. If you do, you could be cited for cruelty to animals and even take to court for it.
2. Move the dog out of the road so no one else gets in an accident trying to avoid hitting it a second time.
Be careful when you do this because an animal that is injured and in shock may bite. The best way to handle an animal in shock is to get a blanket, then wrap the animal up in the blanket, and pick it up that way.
3. Call 911 and they will put you through to animal control who can help you further.
It is essential to get the dog help ASAP! As soon as you’ve moved the animal out of the road, call 911.
Current law requires a driver whose car hits a dog, cat, horse or cattle, to stop, attempt to locate the animal’s owner or law enforcement in the area, and take other reasonable steps to ensure that the animal receives necessary attention. Source
It’s very important to notify the appropriate authorities and to get the animal to a vet right away. Animal control can advise you on whether you need to go immediately to the vet, or wait for one of their officers to come and help.
Knowing what the laws are can make a big difference between finding yourself in court, or being cited with animal cruelty — which is not something any smart person wants to have happen.
FYI… In 1983, two men were severely injured when the driver of a truck in which they were riding swerved to avoid hitting a dog that had run into the road. They sued the dog’s owner, and a judge awarded them $2.6 million. Source