Running over a cat: Why does the law differ between cats and dogs?

While drivers are legally obliged to report hitting a dog, cats don’t get the same treatment – but a recent poll reveals drivers want their beloved pets to have equal rights...

cat and dog

Drivers who run over dogs are required by law to report the incident to the police, but the nation’s second favourite pet – the cat – does not come under the same law.

However, a recent survey by Carbuyer reveals 59% of 1,600 people want the same requirement extended to felines.

Hot on the heels of Labour’s Animal Welfare Plan announcement which includes the requirement of “motorists to report accidents where an animal has been injured”, Carbuyer found their readers want cats included in the law.

The Road Traffic Act 1988 state you only have to lawfully report a car accident with a limited number of animals:

  • Dog
  • Goat
  • Horse
  • Cattle
  • Donkey
  • Mule
  • Sheep
  • Pig

Badgers are a specially protected species and it’s an offence to have one, dead or alive (without the proper authority). So if you hit one with your car, leave it at the roadside and you can voluntarily contact the police or call the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999.

How many cats are killed on UK roads?

It’s hard to pin down an exact figure when it comes to the number of cats hit on UK roads due to the lack of enforcement on reporting the accident.

When looking at figures from Highways England, who are responsible for 4,300 miles of roads (a mere 1.9% of the UK’s roads), it’s revealed 320 dead cats were found on its roads over a two-year period. This means a potential 8,000 dead cats are left unreported on the rest of England’s 245,000 miles of road every year.

In 2016, Highways England announced it would scan run over dogs for microchips, meaning owners of the pet could be notified. An RSPCA spokesman told Carbuyer it would like the same done for cats found injured on the roads.

Last year, Cats Protection charity donated scanning machines to a number of UK councils and over 20 local authorities committed to a scanning policy.

Should cats be added to the Road Traffic Act 1988 law?

While it’s clear many cat-lovers want cats afforded the same car accident laws as dogs, others think this is the wrong approach.

The Act currently governs drivers’ responsibility towards animals normally kept on a lead, tethered or enclosed in a field. Leaving people to worry that cats’ freedom to roam could be threatened if they’re included under the Act.

Cat Matters, a UK campaign group, told the Sunday Telegraph in September 2017 that separate legislation is required, taking into account the unique nature of cats.

Jacqui Cuff, head of advocacy at Cats Protection, said “the best thing is for motorists to help injured cats as much as they can”.

Carbuyers’ survey revealed 57% of respondents would stop if they hit a cat, either taking it to the vet, reporting it to the police or trying to find its owners.

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