While traveling on the freeway last week, I witnessed something terrible. I saw a dog get hit by a car, fly up in the air, and then hit by another car. It was incredibly sad to witness, and since I can't imagine the dog survived, I hope that he didn't suffer. One can only speculate about how the heck a dog got onto a multi-lane freeway in the first place. And what should be done? Though my instinct told me to stop to help, I wasn't willing to put myself at risk by attempting to cross such a busy roadway. I called 911 and was directed to animal control, whom I told the approximate location of the dog...it was all I could think to do. So I got to thinking and researching, what should you do if you hit a dog with your car?
Both wild and domestic animals cause accidents on a fairly regular basis. But hitting a person's pet can have different emotional and moral implications, than, say, hitting a pigeon.
you hit a dog. what should you do?
First thing's first. If you hit a dog, you should stop immediately. If you are on a highway, such as I was, and it would be dangerous to stop suddenly, immediately call 911 to report the incident. You will be put through to animal control.
Once you have stopped, move the dog out of the road, if you can safely do so. There are two reasons for this:
• to prevent further injury to the dog
• to prevent additional accidents from occurring as people swerve to avoid the dog
Always use caution when moving an injured dog. The animal is likely hurt, scared, and in distress, which can cause him to become aggressive. It's best to muzzle the dog in some way. You might loosely tie fabric around the muzzle or put a blanket loosely over the dog, which provides you some protection.
Once the dog is safely out of harm's way, try to contact the owner. If there is no tag, you can call animal control or transport the dog to the nearest vet. The vet will be able to scan the dog for a microchip to try to identify the owner.
Keep in mind that even if the dog looks okay, that might not be the case. The dog could be suffering from broken bones or internal injuries not outwardly visible. It is important that any dog that has been hit by a car get medical attention as soon as possible.
if i hit a dog, am i legally responsible?
In almost all cases, the owner of a loose dog is legally responsible. You are, however, required to do everything that is reasonable to help the dog, or you may be cited for animal cruelty, depending on your state's laws.
if i hit a dog, am i financially responsible?
You are typically not financially responsible when if you hit a dog. It is the dog owner's responsibility to keep the dog under control, and if the dog gets lose and runs into the roadway, the owner is at fault.
The dog owner's insurance policy will typically cover the cost of repair to your vehicle, and they are responsible for all vet bills. The dog owner may wish to pay out-of-pocket rather than file a claim. If the owner is uncooperative, you would most likely have a case in small claims court.
If the owner of the dog can not be located, your comprehensive coverage should cover the cost of repairs to your vehicle.
In the case of veterinary bills, if the owner can not be identified, the person who brought the dog in may be financially responsible. Be sure to discuss this with the vet so you know what to expect. Most vets will treat a dog in trauma, regardless, but it's best to know your financial responsibility in advance.
the bottom line
It is important to know your legal and financial responsibilities, if you hit a dog with your car. Regardless, I would hope that anyone who hit a dog would do the right thing–everything in their capability to help the dog while keeping themselves safe.