what to do if you hit an animal on the roadDo you know what your obligations are if you hit an animal on the road?  Most people drive on regardless, especially if it's a bird, rabbit, possum or hedgehog that's been hit.  But what if it's a dog or a cat, or a sheep or horse?  Some of us have had that experience and it's sickening, but if you know what to do for the best, it can help you deal with the situation.

Domestic animals

  • If you hit a domestic animal you are obliged to try to help it.
  • If at all possible you should report the incident right away to the owner or to the police, and that's the case whether the animal is a family pet or a farm animal.
  • If the owner can't be contacted right away and if the animal is badly injured, this might mean taking it to a vet immediately, but only if it can be moved without causing further injury to the animal or injury to you.
  • Alternatively a veterinarian or SPCA Inspector may be able to attend, and this might be necessary for larger animals, or if the animal is conscious and dangerous to handle.  Even quiet family pets will bite if they are afraid and in pain.
  • Injured animals that can still get around often drag themselves off into hiding.  If you can't restrain them, you can try to keep them in sight until you can get help.
As a general rule, it's best not to attempt to euthanase the animal.  Unless it's obviously a hopeless case, leave any decision about euthanasia to an expert.  If you kill a domestic animal, you may be held accountable.  It's often possible for a vet to treat serious injuries successfully.

Feral animals

If you hit a small feral animal and you are concerned about its welfare, you might wish to take it to a vet or to the SPCA.  This is certainly the most humane course of action, although probably most people would consider it unnecessary, particularly for 'pest' species like rabbits and possums.

Generally it's best to try to kill it humanely to relieve its suffering immediately.
  • There are no hard and fast rules about the best method of euthanasia, but it should be the most humane method possible in the circumstances.
  • Fortunately most of the feral animals involved in road accidents are small and usually their injuries are rapidly fatal.
  • If the victim is larger, say a feral pig or deer, a local farmer may have the skills and facilities to kill it humanely.
  • The police, or SPCA or MAF Inspectors may also be able to help.

Prevent further accidents

If a dead or injured animal is lying on the road, you should immediately make sure it isn't a hazard to other vehicles.
  • If it is a hazard and it can't be safely moved, oncoming traffic should be given advance warning until the scene has been cleared.
  • Get help from the police if necessary.

The bottom line

Drive carefully, and if there is an accident involving an animal, put your own safety and the safety of other people first, and treat the animal victims humanely.

Safe driving!
Go to top