What to do if you accidentally hit an animal when driving

What to do if you accidentally hit an animal when driving

Car accidents with animals are the biggest fear of any pet owner, and a terrifying thought for drivers too. While we sincerely hope you will never need to know what to do if you hit an animal while driving, it’s worth being aware just in case. First of all, try to stay calm, take deep breaths and assess the situation carefully.

The law

The Road Traffic Act 1988¹ only gives rules around certain types of animals: dogs, goats, horses, cattle, donkeys, mules, sheep and pigs.

If you hit one of these animals you are required by law to report it to the police

If you hit an animal that is not included in the Road Traffic Act, such as a cat or a fox, you are not legally required to report it but you may wish to contact the police to inform them of the incident anyway.³ See below for advice on cats and deer.

What to do if you hit an animal when driving – some suggestions

Stop the car

If you’re involved in a Road Traffic Accident and an animal (whether in another vehicle or on the road) is injured⁴ you must stop regardless of whether it was your fault.⁵

Stay at the scene

If you have to stop, you must stay with your car long enough for any affected parties to ask for details if they need to.⁶

For example, this could be the owner of an injured animal, the RSPCA or the police.

Approaching the animal

Firstly, be aware of your surroundings – watch out for other cars or anything else that might put you or anyone else in danger.

If you’re approaching an injured animal, be very careful. It will probably be very scared and might try to bite or scratch you.⁷

If you realise you have hit someone’s pet, you may want to see if you can locate its tag to access the contact details of its owner.

Call the police if necessary

call emergency car accident with animal

Remember if you hit a dog or larger animal covered by the Road Traffic Act 1988 you are legally required to report it to the police.

If you are unable to trace the animal’s owner, you need to report the incident to a police officer or at your local police station within 24 hours of the accident. If the animal needs urgent care, the police should hold a list of vets available to attend.⁸

Accidents involving wild animals

If you find an injured wild animal on the road, observe it (as long as it’s safe to do so) to try and get an idea of how badly hurt it is. Then call the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999, or if possible take it to a vet or wildlife rehabilitator.⁹

Find your local vet here. You will not be responsible for covering the vets fees.¹⁰

Accidents involving cats

It is a very sad reality that cats are often the victims of road accidents. No one wants to think about his or her cat being harmed, but it’s worth knowing what to do if you should come across one in this situation.

Cats Protection offers the following advice to anyone who discovers an injured cat:

If the cat is moveable, take him to a vet and inform the veterinary staff that you are not the owner. If the cat has no identification, spread the word in your neighbourhood that you have discovered an injured cat and taken him to the vet. Putting up some posters may help to inform the owners of their cat’s whereabouts.¹¹

How do I find my local vet?

Find your local vet here.

Accidents involving deer

deer car accident

There are around 74,000 accidents involving deer each year in the UK, with vehicle damage totalling at around £17 million.¹²

Accidents involving deer are more common around May-June and October-November. This is due to the rutting season and young deer dispersing.¹³

Here are some tips from the RSPCA:

– Watch out for deer warning signs
– Keep to the speed limit – it’s there for a reason!
– Take extra care early in the morning and during early evening
– Report any collisions to the police

If you find a dead animal on the road

The local council is responsible for removing any animals found on the road. Click here and enter the postcode of your location to find the relevant contact number.

Where to go for more advice

The RSPCA has some great resources on protecting and caring for animals.

If you’re worried about your own pet, you might find the Blue Cross website helpful.

For information on making a claim following damage to your car, check out the guide on the main insurethebox website.

We hope you’re never involved in car accidents with animals, but you may want to save the RSPCA 24-hour advice line number to your phone, just in case: 0300 1234 999.



[1] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1988/52/section/170
[2] [3]  https://www.askthe.police.uk/content/Q434.htm
[4] [5] [6] http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/england/consumer_e/consumer_cars_and_other_

[7] https://www.bluecross.org.uk/1958-2781/basic-first-aid.html
[8] https://www.staffordshire.police.uk/info_advice/crime_prevention/road_safety/collisions
[9] http://www.rspca.org.uk/allaboutanimals/wildlife/injuredanimals
[10] http://content.www.rspca.org.uk/cmsprd/Satellite?blobcol=urldata&blobheader=application

[11] http://www.cats.org.uk/cat-care/cat-care-faqs
[12] http://www.rspca.org.uk/ImageLocator/LocateAsset?asset=document&assetId=1232713931401&mode=prd
[13] http://www.theaa.com/public_affairs/news/deer-collisions.html.

Written by Elizabeth Stephenson


    1. Ben

      Careful driving is not a pass.

      You can hit many animals that dart into the road that are invisible to you, even when going 20mph.

      I’m the owner of a 18 week old kitten who has recently (9th October, yesterday) been hit by a car. He’s doing ok, it looks like he’s not going to lose his leg. Vet bills look to be £1000+.

      I don’t know who the driver was, they just mashed one leg. It could have looked to the driver like they just bumped him, and he then ran off. Fortunately our cat had the other three legs working, and charged back to the house.

      We found him a few hours later. It’s going to be a long process of recovery. Parts of his lower leg were degloved (don’t google that), and some ligaments are essentially gone. He’s already had the operation to fix his broken leg, the other operations will be harder. Amputation was a very real option.

      This is on a 20mph private road. I’m not blaming the driver.

  1. Nahndmrsh

    I think its disgusting that cats and other certain animals are not covered in this legislation. I found a dead cat (run over) on my way to work this morning and felt helpless even though i called the local council to report it.

    1. Margaret Emm

      Me too i have sadly just lost my beautiful Millie today only 2 years old and i find it very upsetting that whoever hit her did,nt even bother to stop and just left her lying there even if there was nothing they could have done they could have at least taken her to a vet to be scanned i think the laws need to be updated x

  2. mandy

    i completely agree 100 perecent it is shocking cats and other animals are not covered. i have 3 cats they are my family and i couldnt imagine how anyone could hit a cat and just drive away and dont have to report it if they dont want to shocking!

  3. Tommy

    Cats are semi-feral and some are stray. To try and find the owner of an unaccompanied animal is ridiculous and would be a total waste of police time. The other animals will blatantly have an owner and would only be on the road by mistake.

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