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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 stating what you must do if you hit someone’s pet with your car. I was surprised to find that there is little information regarding these laws 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.
The laws of most states require that if you hit a domestic animal, you must stop and notify the appropriate state or local authority. If you don’t do so, you could find yourself in legal hot water. In general, if you stop and make a reasonable effort to help the animal, the legal responsibility for the accident will not fall on you, but on the owner for allowing the dog to run loose. Source
If you’re on a highway or a busy road where suddenly stopping could be dangerous, then keep moving and call 911 to report the incident to authorities. (See Reese’s comment below.)
#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
Just remember, even if the dog looks and acts okay, it may not be. Dogs can suffer a multitude of injuries from being hit by a car — including head injuries and broken bones, to name a few. It would be better if you bring them to the nearest pet hospital right away to avoid serious complications.
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
Other Online Discussions About This Topic
- Car Hits Dog – Isn’t The Driver At Least Partially Liable?
- What If I Hit A Dog & My Car Is Damaged, But The Dog Took Off Running?
- Dog Was Hit By A Car, Now Being Harassed By The Driver
- Unleashed Dog Ran In Front Of Our Car… Who’s Responsible?
- A Dog Hit My Car!
- Legal Advice: A Dog Ran Into The Street And I Accidentally Hit It
- My Dog Hit A Car That Left The Scene, Should I Pay?
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My favorite things to write about are topics that have to do with pregnancy, weddings, saving money, living green, and life with dogs. When I’m not writing, I love to spend time with my husband, read, create 3D artwork and Native American beadwork.