I Hit a Dog with My Car: What Am I Legally Required to Do?


It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood as I drove toward the house where I used to live. At the intersection where I was about to turn onto my street, a group of youngsters was happily playing on the sidewalk.

Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a shape hurtle off the sidewalk, into the street, and straight into my moving car. For a terrifying moment, I thought I had hit a child. But, oh so thankfully, it turned out to be a dog.

Of course I jammed on the brakes, and as the car came to a stop, the children who had been playing on the sidewalk ran up to the injured animal, picked it up, and carried it away. Seeing that the dog was being cared for, I remained in my car and went on my way.

What should I have done after hitting the dog?

Because the apparent owners of the animal were on the scene, and immediately took charge of their pet, it seemed to me at the time that I had no further responsibility in the matter. But as I continued to think back on this incident in the several years since it occurred, I became more and more disturbed that I had no idea what my legal obligations were in such a situation.

What, exactly, is a driver supposed to do when their vehicle hits (or, as in my case, is hit by) a dog, cat, or other domestic animal? What is he or she required to do?

Some very bad answers from the internet!

An authoritative answer to that question proved surprisingly difficult to find. Some of the advice given on the internet seemed problematical, at best.

For example, one site gave 20 steps that could be taken, the first of which was: if the animal is clearly unable to live, get back in your car and put it out of its misery.

Apparently the authors of that advice envisioned a luckless driver taking it upon himself to determine the injured creature's medical condition, and if the prognosis seemed negative, run it over again to give it a "quick and painless" death. That definitely did not seem to me to be a wise course of action!

Have you ever hit a dog or cat with your car?

See results

VIDEO: Do the right thing!

Advice from the ASPCA

Failing to find a reliable source on the web, I turned to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in the hope that they would have a recommended procedure. My thanks to the Cumberland County, New Jersey SPCA (CCSPCA) for providing direction regarding this issue. I summarize their counsel below.

Legal requirements cited refer specifically to New Jersey, and may vary in other states. Also, these requirements apply only to domestic animals such as dogs, cats, cows, horses, etc. Running over a skunk on the road might have some pretty severe consequences, but they won't necessarily be legal ones.

The following steps are my understanding of the information CCSPCA supplied concerning what a driver should do when his or her vehicle hits a domestic animal.


1. You must stop and notify authorities

The laws of most states require that if you hit a domestic animal, you must stop and notify the appropriate state or local police authority. If you don't do so, you can be charged with leaving the scene.

That’s what happened to Kathleen Ruggiero of Clinton, CT. She struck and killed a dog that ran out from behind a plow truck and into the path of her car. She panicked and drove off, later attributing the damage to her vehicle to having hit a deer. But police matched a piece of a car grill found at the scene to Ruggiero’s Honda, and five hours after the accident she was arrested and charged.

"You have to call the police. The big issue is the failure to stop to render aid.”

In the newspaper account of Ruggiero’s arrest, the chief of police commented, “If you hit a dog and stop, we’d go out and make a record of it. There’s generally no arrest. But, if you hit a dog, you have to stop. You have to call the police. The big issue is the failure to stop to render aid.”

An attorney writing for notes that in most states a pet is considered personal property, and a hit and run that results in property damage carries a criminal penalty. CCSPCA recommends that you think of hitting a domestic animal as if an automobile accident had occurred and act accordingly. In most locations, calling 911 would be the appropriate response.


2. Don't try to move the animal unless you are sure it is safe to do so

If the animal is still alive, CCSPCA recommends that you wait with it until help arrives. Move it only if necessary (for example, if the animal is still in the road where it could be hit by other traffic) and safe.

What about cats?

While cats are almost as likely as dogs to be hit by cars, an Australian report says 70 percent of the animals taken to an animal hospital after being hit were dogs, and only 30 percent were cats. Why the difference? Cats, being smaller, are more likely to die on the spot. Dogs have a better chance of survival.

Remember that a hurt and scared animal may lash out or bite when approached, so use caution and common sense. If you decide it’s necessary to move the animal, the use of a blanket and gloves to avoid direct contact with it would be a common-sense precaution.

Also, be very careful for your own safety if you decide to go onto the roadway in order to care for the animal. Pull your vehicle off to the side of the road, and only get out to go to the animal if it’s clear there is no danger of you being hit by oncoming traffic.

3. Be aware of the legal ramifications of moving the animal

(Note: laws may vary, so you should check the law in your state).


CCSPCA notes that once you take possession of the animal, you also become responsible to ensure that it receives appropriate medical care.

What constitutes taking possession of the animal?

Picking it up or moving it to get it out of the street would not qualify as taking possession. But if you put the animal in your car, you have legally taken possession of it, and become responsible for its care.

As noted earlier, CCSPCA advises that rather than putting the animal in your car, it's best to call for assistance and wait until it arrives.

Don’t panic out of fear of being unfairly held liable for hitting the animal

Most jurisdictions have ordnances requiring that owners keep their pets under control at all times. If a free running animal hits or is hit by your vehicle, you are not likely to be held liable. The owner may be cited, and may be held responsible for costs associated with the accident. This may include any medical bills for the animal, and may also include repair of any damage to your vehicle.

On the other hand, according to the attorney cited above, if the accident was caused in part by your negligence as a driver, you may be held to be at fault and liable for the value of the animal.

Bottom line: stop and call the police

In light of these recommendations from CCSPCA, there is one thing I would change about the way I responded when the dog collided with my car. Even though the animal's owners took immediate charge of it, I would still call 911 before leaving the scene.

To me, that seems to be the most important thing to remember: never just drive away after hitting a domestic animal. If you call 911 and report it, whatever else may happen, you'll probably be on solid ground.

© 2014 Ronald E. Franklin

More by this Author


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Excellent advice on a subject I never ever even thought about. Thank you.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, Ericdierker. I'm pretty sure I never would have thought about it if I hadn't had the experience. But it's information many people will need sooner or later.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean

Thanks for this education. It seems so common sense, but in a panic the drive may do anything but what's legal. I appreciate the research and the presentation.

heidithorne profile image

heidithorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

Oh, Ron! This is one of the most heartbreaking incidents that a driver could encounter. Being an active pet advocate and on a pet shelter foundation board, you can imagine that I'm a strong supporter of keeping all pets where they belong: on a leash, in a fenced yard (or other containment area) or in the home. That "I have voice command of my pet" excuse is unacceptable! They are animals and they are unpredictable.

I am constantly telling neighbors to keep their dogs contained. I found a neighbor dog dead in the street... apparently a hit and run accident. Just awful! And a loose dog can cause other accidents, too (I know from personal experience).

Good advice to contact 911 when it occurs. Thank you for sharing your experience and tips. I'm sure it was a difficult one to write.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks MsDora. I think panic is probably the biggest concern in such situations. Knowing what to do before it happens is the best antidote to doing the wrong thing because of panic.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, heidithorne. You are so right about people not feeling the need to keep their pets under control. In my neighborhood we have pet cats that are allowed to roam free. One even came and checked out the inside of my garage. It didn't bother me, but I wonder if the owners thought about possible danger to their pet when it's running free along the road.

Justin Hylen profile image

Justin Hylen 2 years ago from Seattle, Wa

Very good to know. Its hard to know what to do in these stressful situations.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Justin, I think most people are like I was, and have no idea what they are supposed to do. Hopefully this helps. Thanks for reading.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

Very interesting. To tell you the truth, I never gave any thought to the legalities of this. I just assume people are going to stop and try to do the right thing. Thanks for the info.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, billybuc. Actually, what I've seen is that a lot of people are so shaken up and intimidated by fear they don't stop. I hope having this kind of info will alleviate a lot of that fear.

SheGetsCreative profile image

SheGetsCreative 2 years ago from Seattle, WA

I can't imagine not stopping, trying to find the owners and trying to render aid. Interesting though that I just did a quick Google search on Washington State laws pertaining to hitting an animal and could come up with nothing :/

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Hi, SheGetsCreative. I think a lot of people panic and drive away precisely because in their ignorance of the law they're afraid of what could happen if they stop and try to help the animal. Hopefully this info will reassure people. I'm not surprised you couldn't find info for your state. That was the case when I was searching as well. Thanks for reading and commenting.

ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

It is a very unique kind of hub and I do appreciate you for writing on this subject.

Forget about the laws; like a caring individual, we must stop to see and try to arrange for the first aid to the animal.

Thanks for the information, so thoughtful of you!

mySuccess8 profile image

mySuccess8 2 years ago

Useful guide, which I believe some of us are not aware. This deserves a HotD, congrats!

just helen profile image

just helen 2 years ago from Dartmoor UK

As far as I am aware, in the UK you are only required to report an accident involving a dog , a horse, or livestock such as a cow. You are not required to report an accident involving a cat.

Many years ago I ran over a cat. It was late on a Sunday evening, I was driving home in the dark and a cat ran across the road in front of me. I could not avoid it. It ran into a garden and lay down to die. Of course I tried to help it, but could not. I tried contacting a vet to come to put it out of its misery, but no-one would come. I was SO angry. So I just sat with it gently stroking it and apologising for any part I had in its suffering and death. It died very quickly, thankfully.

firstday profile image

firstday 2 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

RonElFran I would like to know you personally. This article is important and I have never bothered to research it. Thanks for writing this, as a matter of fact this information needs to be taught to new drivers as well as the old ones.

In pediatric trauma, where I worked the response from the hit and run drivers, "I thought I hit a dog so I kept going." This alone is a reason to stop and assess what has happened. Bless you for writing this.

Pawpawwrites profile image

Pawpawwrites 2 years ago from Kansas

Very important information to have. Very informative article. Most people don't know what to do in that situation. Sadly, I hit a dog many years ago, while passing a car at highway speed. I stopped, and knocked on a couple of doors, till I found the owner. It was a very sad moment.

One question I had at the time, was......Does the owner have any legal responsibility for damages to the property of the car owner?

VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne 2 years ago from United States

Great Hub idea. I would not have thought about calling 911 in this situation. One thing I would strongly caution, however, is touching any animal when you can't tell if they have had rabies shots. An injured animal is even more likely to perhaps bite or scratch. My 2 year old was bit by a cat that had wandered in to our yard. We went to the emergency room because we could not find the owner. By law, she was required to start rabies shots which are not only terribly painful, but also extremely expensive (over $1500--I had to fight with our insurance company to get this covered). There is a series of shots and so we posted notices and went door to door trying to find the cat's owner to find out the shot record. We never found the owner, but the cat reappeared in our yard, we caught it and called the humane society which was required to keep the cat in quarantine to find out if it had rabies. Yikes! My kids are instructed to never pet any animal unless the owner is present.

heidithorne profile image

heidithorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

Though this is a sad and troubling subject, you deserve kudos for addressing it in this hub... and definitely deserving of the Hub of the Day Award! Congrats!

cfin profile image

cfin 2 years ago from The World we live in

And the most disturbing thing I have seen this month - 20% Yes - I just kept on going

ComfortB profile image

ComfortB 2 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

I didn't know there are legal ramifications to leaving the scene after hitting a dog. I see dead dogs a lot on highways here in Georgia. I'm guessing this doesn't apply to stray dogs as most of these dead dogs are usually left for days to rot or be eaten by other animals.

I hit a very big deer once on a state route. I was so shaken up and scared that I didn't wait to see what happened to it. I was just so glad I wasn't hurt as another driver was killed around the same area when he hit a deer.

I guess the appropriate thing I could have done was call the police. Great hub BTW. Voted up and useful.

nightcats profile image

nightcats 2 years ago from North Vancouver

Years ago in heavy traffic, I hit a cat. The hit knocked the cat into another lane where a second car hit it. I kept on driving because it seemed there was no way to stop and the animal was surely dead. I have felt bad about this ever since. Like you, I had no idea what I should have done legally. Morally I know I should have stopped.

Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 2 years ago from USA

Congrats on HOTD. It is an important subject to bring up. In my neighborhood, many people let their dogs out to go to the park across the street. I've seen many near misses as the dogs dart across the street without checking for traffic. I can't imagine what these owners are thinking.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean

Congratulations on your Hub of the Day Award! Sorry for the dog; wish there was a way to let it know that the accident was not entirely in vain.

Dressage Husband profile image

Dressage Husband 2 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

I was not aware of the requirements here:- in the UK you must report any accidents involving licensed animals. Horses, Dogs, Cattle etc. Apparently cats are not included in this!

Now living in Canada I must confess to not knowing here but would have called the police. Do not use 911 though as it may not be a true emergency as far as Police are concerned and you can be fined if it is not considered to be one here.

Good Hub well done on achieving HOTD.

ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 2 years ago from Midwest

This is indeed a great hub. In the area where I live, on the edge of town, animals are hit routinely here. A lot of farmers let their dogs and of course cats roam free. One morning a dog that had been hit and was still alive was lying on my porch. Heartbreaking. Whoever hit it kept on going instead of knocking on our door. I ended up being the one to call animal control. He could have bit my son when he left for school - fortunately he was a nice animal. Another time we saw a truck hit a cat, he knew he hit it, slowed down, then gunned it to get out of there. Once again we comforted a dying animal while calling animal control out. Very sad - if you hit an animal, stop and do the right thing. I can certainly understand panic, but if that animal wanders off injured, it could harm another person.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, ChitrangadaSharan. I think it's fear of legal consequences that overrides some drivers' compassion and that's why they don't stop. Hopefully, knowing more of what the law requires will take away the fear.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thank you, mySuccess8. I think perhaps most people are like I was, having no idea what to do in such a situation.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

just helen, I believe you are correct that in the UK you are not required to stop if you hit a cat. I remember reading that while researching. So, it's not a legal but a moral imperative. I'm so glad you did all you could for the cat you hit. Thanks for reading and commenting.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks so much, firstday. The point you share is one I hadn't thought of but is so important. To keep going after hitting something because you thought it was "only a dog" is totally irresponsible. I just think of what happened to me. If I had panicked and driven away as fast as I could, I would have told myself it was only a dog, but in the back of my mind the fear that I had hit a child would probably have haunted me all these years.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, Pawpawwrites. My understanding is that if you hit a domestic animal that was not properly under control, the owner is responsible for the costs of both caring for the animal, and for repairing any damage to your vehicle.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Hi VirginiaLynne. You're exactly right about the dangers of getting close to the injured animal. Touching it to move it out of the roadway ought to be a last resort to insure further accidents don't happen. I hadn't thought about the possibility of rabies, so that's very good input. Thanks!

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Hello, heidithorne. The idea of hitting an animal, and especially a dog, is disturbing, but all too real. Thanks for reading and for the congrats.

Heidi Vincent profile image

Heidi Vincent 2 years ago from GRENADA

CONGRATULATIONS on winning Hub of the Day, RonElFran! A very useful lens.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Hi, cfin. I think most people who just drive away do so because of fear of possible consequences. Hopefully, having this kind of info may help overcome that kind of fear. Thanks for reading.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, ComfortB. I hadn't thought about possibly feral dogs. But I would still call and report it if I hit one. I can imagine how terrifying hitting a deer was for you. Here in Pennsylvania you're probably much more likely to hit a deer than a dog. If I hit one (and so far, thankfully, I haven't, though many have run into the road in front of my car) I'd still call it in so the animal could be cared for or, if dead, removed from the roadway.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

nightcats, thanks for sharing your experience. On a busy roadway where the animal had already been hit by a second vehicle, I'm not sure there was much beyond calling it in you could have done without putting yourself at risk. But I know the memory is still a painful one.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, Millionaire Tips. You're very right about people letting their pets roam the neighborhood. Nobody seems to think that letting an animal run free is putting it at risk.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, MsDora. One thing I'm glad about is the fact that the kids who loved that dog were right there on the scene to take care of it.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Dressage Husband, thanks for your input about Canada. I'm not sure of what the laws may be there. I'm pretty sure that in most jurisdictions in the U. S. calling 911 after hitting an animal won't be considered inappropriate. And you're right that in the UK cats are not covered by the requirement to report hitting one. Thanks for reading and for your congrats.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks so much, ChristinS. And your warning that an injured animal may be a danger to someone else is well taken. That just further emphasizes that stopping and calling to get aid if you hit a domestic animal is the right thing to do.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, Heidi. I really appreciate that.

techygran profile image

techygran 2 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

RonElFran- This is a wel-written hub about an important subject. Congratulations on HOTD! Voting you up and sharing!

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, techygran, for reading and for your congrats!

sara0129 profile image

sara0129 2 years ago from Texas

Good to know. Thanks for the tips and congratulations on HOTD.

swilliams profile image

swilliams 2 years ago from Arizona

Ron this very good information that you have provided. I'm sure many people have wondered what to do after such an incident. Your article is very useful! Thanks!

PromptWriter profile image

PromptWriter 2 years ago from Eastern Ontario

Interesting article. My first thought would be to jump out and put the animal in my car and find a vet. I would have thought that vet costs would be 50/50 between the owner and the person who ran him over but I never thought about any other liability issues.

Sandi Yee profile image

Sandi Yee 2 years ago from Winnipeg, MB

My dog was hit two years ago. Granted she was not on a leash as we were getting into our car at the time, when she saw another dog and bolted onto the street, just at exactly the time that a car was turning onto our street and sped up. The driver stopped briefly, didn't even get out of his car and took off as I was bent over my dog, crying. I was appalled that the person didn't even have the decency to take a bit of time to see what kind of damage he had done. Legal obligations aside, what kind of person just takes off after hitting an animal, wild or domestic? Whether or not the owners are there to take care of the animal, is it not just common courtesy or your moral responsibility to make sure that you take care of the consequences your mistakes and mishaps? At the very least to apologize for the harm the animal has been through because of your actions. Unfortunately, the person who hit my dog got away, and I was stuck with a very large vet bill for the care of my dog. So please everyone, do the right thing, and at least stop to apologize.

DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 2 years ago from Oakley, CA

Luckily, this has never happened to me. But here in CA, the law is pretty much as your source stated. With one exception. Here, we are expected to go knocking on doors in the immediate area searching for the owner, and let them know. I think I would be terrified to do that, for fear of someone coming unglued and attacking me!

As for cats, sadly, it is true they are less likely to survive such an encounter. It used to be, the last time I had occasion to study the driving law manual, that cats were considered 'throwaway animals,' and you did not have to search for the owner, and were free to leave the scene. Whether that is still true, I'm unsure. If it is, it angers me! Cats, too, may be a valued family pet.

Voted up, useful and interesting.

JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA

Very deserving of Hub of the Day award. Valuable information. I continue to be amazed at how many people in my municipality do not bother to keep their pets contained or on leash as the statute requires. I actually know someone (an acquaintance--not a friend) who considers the death of pets from being run over by cars 'just one of the hazards of having a pet.' I think that is an inhumane attitude and certainly irresponsible pet parenting, but--having tried to change this person's mind with no success--realize that not every individual is worthy of having a pet in his or her life.

Accidents happen, but when a life is at risk, no driver should 'just keep going.'

Voted Up++


aka-rms profile image

aka-rms 2 years ago from USA

Thank you for sharing your experience. I've never been in this situation and it's good to know in advance what I should do if it ever were to happen. Congratulations on your HotD award.

Dave Collado profile image

Dave Collado 2 years ago from San Jose California

Excellent hub! I've never had the misfortune to hit an animal myself, not to my knowledge, but most of this is plain common sense. Needless to say, common sense collectively being the least common of all the senses.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, sara0129. I appreciate you reading and commenting.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, swilliams. I'm glad you found the article useful. As you say, many people just don't know what to do in such situations.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Hi, PromptWriter. My understanding is that even if you took possession of the animal and arranged for its care, that wouldn't relieve the owner who had been negligent about keeping it under control from being financially responsible for costs both for its care and for any damage to your vehicle. But, that would be something to check out in your state to be sure. Thanks for reading and commenting.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Sandi, thanks for sharing your experience of what it's like when someone just drives off after hitting your dog. As you make clear, that's an offense not only against the animal, which may be injured and in need of help, but against a person who may be in anguish over what happened to a beloved pet. My hope is that having the info in this article will lead to fewer people just driving off without trying to help.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, DzyMsLizzy. On going door to door to find the animal's owner, the CCASPCA presented it as an option but not a requirement. In my research I didn't find any specific mention of laws in the U. S. regarding cats. But since they are "domestic animals" I would err on the side of reporting hitting a cat just like I would for a dog. In the UK, btw, cats are specifically exempted from the reporting requirement.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Hi, Jaye. Something your acquaintance seems not to be considering is the effect killing a pet has on the driver. Years later I still vividly remember hitting that dog, and it's not a pleasant memory. So that cavalier attitude about a pet losing its life through the negligence of its owner is also totally disrespectful of the emotional cost to an innocent driver. Thanks for reading and for your comment.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Hi, aka-rms. If the article has made you more ready to handle such a situation if it ever happened to you, it has fulfilled its purpose. Thanks for reading and commenting.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Hi, Dave. I think that all too often common sense gets pushed out by fear of possible liability. Hopefully, this kind of info will help alleviate that fear. Thanks for reading and commenting.

MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 2 years ago from Northern California, USA

We think we know what we will do in such situations, but if we don't take steps to learn what to do ahead of time, we may not respond according to law. This is very enlightening and prompted me to look into what the laws are for my area. And, by the way, congratulations on receiving Hub of the Day!

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks so much, Marlene. I think you're exactly right. The confusion and fear associated with being in a situation they aren't prepared to handle are what lead many people to do stupid things, like driving off after hitting a dog. I hope this article helps to overcome that.

epbooks profile image

epbooks 2 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

This is something I worry about constantly as so many people have their dogs off of the leash and as a dog lover, I can't even imagine hitting a dog. I would call the police for help getting the dog to safety and if the owners are present, offer to help get the dog to an animal hospital.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Hi, epbooks. You're right about dogs being off leash. Many times when such animals are hit, it's not at all the fault of the driver, but of the owner for not taking care of their pet. I'm glad you have a clear plan of what you will do if the situation ever arises. Thanks for reading and sharing.

My Bell profile image

My Bell 2 years ago

What a great topic to right about. Dogs loved by families and as such should be given the utmost respect and receive help when a tragedy like this happens. I would definitely call 911 and stay with the animal trying to keep him/her calm as much as possible until help arrived. Thank you for contacting the ASPCA and sharing their recommendations with us. Congratulations on HOTD - well earned!

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Hi, My Bell. I hope it never happens to you, but if it does, you already know what to do. Thanks for sharing.

tom yam profile image

tom yam 2 years ago from Nakon Sawan Province, Thailand.

Here in Thailand there are no legal requirements surrounding an incident such as this. The roads seem to be littered with dead animals that no one seems to care about.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Hi, tom yam. I certainly hope that changes. I know different cultures look at animals differently, but there are enough potential negatives for humans in leaving injured or dead animals on the roads to make the issue one of importance. Thanks for reading.

Laura335 profile image

Laura335 2 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

It seems like obvious advice when you think about it, but on reading your title, I was totally unsure of what to do in this situation. Thanks for the clarification!

Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 2 years ago from USA

This is good advice and brings up a lot of issues I wasn't aware of.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, Laura335. Hopefully this info will eliminate confusion and fear for some people.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, Barbara. I'm glad it helped.

Alison Williams profile image

Alison Williams 2 years ago

I heard somewhere that hitting a dog is like hitting a person and you have to call the police. I think if you hit a deer in Britain, they are the property of the Crown so they are also viewed in high regard. Cats, on the other hand are classed as 'vermin' if I remember and you are not legally required to stop! Not very fair. A cat ran out in front of me - I had no time to stop and it sounded like I had run over it! But in my rear view mirror I saw it carry on running into some bushes so I believe I might have run over its tail. I hope it was ok to this day.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Hi, Alison. I believe you are correct that UK law doesn't treat cats the same as dogs. But, in the U. S. at least, since cats are domestic animals, I think it best to handle them just like dogs. I couldn't imagine the cat lobby here allowing their idols to be classed as "vermin"! Whether it's a dog, a cat, or a deer, hitting one is, as you know, a very traumatic experience. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Leilani Allmon 2 years ago

I had no idea that hitting a pet was a police matter. I would look at the collar and call the owners. It would never even occurred to me to call the police. But I guess it makes sense if you sustain damage to the car. Someone has to pay for that.

schoolgirlforreal profile image

schoolgirlforreal 2 years ago from USA

This is good information to have. You say at the end, if you call 911, and alert the authorities, you probably won't have any trouble. I wish you could say you definitely won't have any trouble. There is still the fear I think that one might get in trouble, but if it's not your fault, I would hope one wouldn't be charged with anything!!

This was informative. If it ever happens, now I know what to do. Thank you for sharing this valuable info.

:) God willing it wont'!!!

Take care,


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Hi, Leilani. Yes, the only way to get the animal's owner to take responsibility for costs of repair would be to report the accident. But beyond that, it's the driver who may find himself or herself in legal hot water by not calling it in, even if there was no damage to the vehicle. Thanks for reading and commenting.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, Rose. I certainly understand your concern. The legal system being what it is, there's always the possibility of unexpected complications. But on the whole, I think you're more likely to have a problem by not reporting hitting a domestic animal than if you do. The best thing, as you say, is that it never comes up. But if it does, I think this info will prove helpful.

TheHealthGuy LM profile image

TheHealthGuy LM 2 years ago from U.S.A.

Excellent info on a subject that many most likely never consider, yet could be important to know at some point. Personally, I hope I never have to tell some family that I just killed or disabled their pet.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, TheHealthGuy LM. I hope that no one who reads this article will ever personally need the info. But if it does happen, they'll be better prepared to handle it the right way. I appreciate you reading and commenting.

Beyza 23 months ago

Thniking like that shows an expert at work

Doodlehead profile image

Doodlehead 23 months ago from Northern California

I hope I never hit a is so heartbreaking to see these injured pets.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 23 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Doodlehead, I join you in that hope. Thanks for reading.

Elaine 23 months ago

My dog was recently hit by a car and passed away. He broke loose from a leash after seeing another dog--therefore, he was "a free running animal." However, the older woman who was driving was completely incompetent of driving. We saw what was about to happen and literally ran into the middle of the road to bang on her window and get her to stop before hitting my dog, but she did not pay attention at all. If she had seen us or heard us screaming at her she could have stopped or at least slowed down, but she continued to speed while in pedestrian area where there were no obstructions of vision. The roads were completely clear, it being Christmas morning. Can we press charges for her negligent driving? I heard that there may be ground for charges of emotional disturbance she caused. Watching your dog get hit by a car is like watching your best friend and child get hit by a car all at once. I don't understand how someone like the woman who hit my dog and killed him could go back home to her family and open presents under a Christmas tree when she killed my closest and dearest friend.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 23 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Elaine, I'm so sorry about what happened to your dog. And on Christmas, too. I'm sure it's very difficult to deal with. Of course I can't give legal advice, but unless you have video or eyewitnesses of the driver's negligence, you may have a hard time winning a suit. Sounds like this elderly lady may simply no longer be capable of driving safely. I hope that as you grieve your dog, you'll also be able to forgive her. That's the only way to gain peace about what happened.

Dressage Husband profile image

Dressage Husband 23 months ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

Good Advice Ron. I agree with you absolutely.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 23 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, Dressage Husband.

peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 21 months ago from Home Sweet Home

Here in our co7ntry hit and run of cats or dogs are common scenes where these pets are left to die by the side of the road, nobody would stop and take a look. This is our bad society.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 21 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

peachpurple, I'm sorry to hear that. Hopefully it will begin to change. Thanks for sharing.

firstday profile image

firstday 21 months ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

I feel this information is important for every driver or passenger. I have shared this post on TSU for my friends and followers. This post has your link so others can find you...Have you heard of the new social network...join me...look up my profile

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 21 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, firstday.

shockedp. 16 months ago

I hit a dog today afternoon and i feel awful .. My back wheel or wheels got this creatures bottom half and he seemed to be in serious pain (it was yelling howling and all that) the thing is though .. I didnt stop .. i slowed down but it was about three o clock and the heat was brutal i had both my daughters in the car they were asleep (my girls are 4yrs and 10 months) i wasnt far from where i live so i drove hone got my kids into a cool place and i called animal control from my house .... Am i going to be getting into trouble ? Help?

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 16 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Hi, shockedp. I'm really sorry you've had to go through the trauma of hitting a dog. Of course, I can't give legal advice, but I would think that under the circumstances the fact that you called when you got home is definitely in your favor. I hope it goes well with you. Thanks for sharing your story.

ProponentOfResponsiblyProtectingYourPets 11 months ago

It was a dark night on a shadowy country road. As a car approached me on the other side of the road only a few yards ahead, a dog sped out of nowhere, narrowly missing the oncoming car and headed straight for me. At that point, its fate was sealed. I did the best I could to avoid it. I braked and steered carefully, aligning my vehicle to minimize the damage that was to be done to the creature by the impending impact. The small dog passed between the wheels of my high-clearance vehicle as my heart pounded. Then came a gentle thud. I looked back but I couldn't see anything in the darkness. I heard frantic barking. I wanted to do something but considering the darkness, lack of first aid supplies, and potential hostility of the locals (who do not take kindly to trespassing, knocks on doors, or suspicious stopping of vehicles at odd hours in the evening, to say nothing of accidental vehicular homicide of canine family members), I made the only reasonable decision. With watering eyes, I said a heartfelt prayer for the dog as I drove on. My adept maneuver had avoided contact between the dog and my wheels. Maybe its tail just grazed the undercarriage. Maybe it would be okay...

The strongest emotion I now feel is frustration. I know I did the right thing given the conditions, but I am angry at negligent pet owners. I could have stopped but couldn't have done anything useful. Staring down the barrel of a crying little girl's dad's shotgun or standing there and enduring a barrage of insults from family and neighbors would not have helped the dog. I can't say that I'd act rationally if my best friend was accidentally hit by a car driven by a stranger (and neither can you unless you've been in that situation). After reading this article, I wish I'd called 911...but only if I had a way to do so anonymously. The legal implications outweigh any benefit of remaining at a scene if the probability is that no good will come from it. It is a context-dependent judgment call -- can you do anything for the animal (not the owner -- it makes no sense to stop solely out of obligation or to provide sympathy for an adult owner who let this happen to begin with and who would potentially be hostile)? The best cure is prevention and it is in your hands, owners who criticize drivers for accidents that you are responsible for! Keep your dog inside or on a leash until it's reliable off leash and even then, stay with it! Some would say never let it off leash. I think dogs need to feel the wind in their fur (just as we don't live in bubbles), but not in a small yard alongside a highway with no fence and no supervision! Dogs need our protection. This dog's owners failed to protect it. So did I, but my failure was unavoidable. I only hope its tail was merely grazed, that the owners love it enough to feel great remorse for letting this happen, and that they'll be more responsible in the future.

I expect to be hated by all for what I've written, but as a dog lover, I will never lose this sad memory. I object to generalized assertions saying that you should always stop. Emotional reactions from negligent owners against careful drivers who hit their helpless dogs are usually just projection of blame. If this happens again (I desperately hope not), I may or may not stop; it depends on the details. If I felt I could save the dog without risking my own safety or legal punishment, I'd stop. But I don't want a shootout, I don't want to watch a child's beloved pet die in their arms while they ask me "why?", and I don't want trouble from a legal system that has often proven itself unfair and unjust. It's a really hard decision to make (especially in a strange place on a dark night) and it has to be made quickly. Dog owners, be responsible! Don't let this situation develop to begin with because after it happens, it's a dilemma with no clear solution and no positive outcome.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 11 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

You bring up a very important point - you should not put yourself in danger to try to help an animal that collided with your car. And I certainly identify with your larger point that owners who allow their pets to run free near roadways are ultimately responsible for accidents like what happened to you. In effect both the dog and you were victims of the owner's negligence. Your actions are entirely understandable, and I don't think anyone will hate you for what happened.

Jennifer Mugrage profile image

Jennifer Mugrage 10 months ago from Columbus, Ohio

Good to know. As many have pointed out, we might not think about this situation until it comes up.

Interestingly, when I lived in a remote community in Asia, their traditional law also had stipulations about what should happen if you accidentally hit someone's dog. I believe you were subjected to a hefty fine, but only if the dog died.

My husband and I actually witnessed a motorcycle hit a dog on the street in front of our house in that village. (It was pitch dark, the dog was apparently resting on the road, and the motorcycle was coasting downhill with its lights off.)

The dog's screaming was the one of the worst sounds I have ever heard. I did not think it would live, but its owner nursed it back to health.

Immediately after the accident, everyone's first question was, "Is the dog dead?" Nobody seemed too concerned about the motorcyclist, who had also been thrown from his motorcycle.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 10 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Hi, Jennifer, and thanks for sharing. Very interesting story of your experience in Asia. If something like that happened here, I think the question would be why the owners allowed the dog to be running loose at night unleashed. They (the owners) would probably face the ire of the dog-loving community.

LeedlesMI 7 months ago

My dog was recently hit by a car and killed. We live on a private road with no trespassing signs marked at the entrance of our subdivision. The lady said she saw the dog, but didn't 'think' she would run in front of the car, so she didn't stop/brake for her. Technically, our property line is midpoint of the road, and the accident occurred in front of our property-which then would be ON our property. I feel responsible as a pet owner that the dog wasn't leashed (we have 3.25 acres) but we were outside playing; however, I also feel being the road signs clearly state no trespassing, the lady had no business on our street. I paid $1,200 and waited months for a puppy when I originally purchased her, a standard schnauzer. My girl died on en route to the vet and I'm heartbroken over it. I just feel that there should be something the lady could of or should have done. When I replay her words about her 'stopping for turtles and squirrels' (but NOT A PET), it just grinds me to no end thinking she had no regard for animals lives.

Happymommy2520 profile image

Happymommy2520 4 months ago from East Coast

Great article! I also live in NJ and I will stop and notify the police if I ever hit an animal. The owners should be held accountable. Dogs should be on a leash or in a fenced in yard. Thanks for the info!

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 4 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

LeedlesMI, I'm really sorry to hear about your dog. I know how traumatic such a loss can be. I know she can't truly be replaced, but I do hope you'll find another dog to love.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 4 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thank you, Happymommy2520. I hope you never have to put it into practice, but it's great that you've already decided to do the right thing if you should hit an animal.

charlie 4 months ago

My dog just got hit by car 100 ft from my driveway didnt realize she got hit untill about 5 to 8 min later was mowing lawn seen a vehicle pulled off to the side called for my dog no response so walked down asked something happen and the first words out of ladies mouth was called cops and your paying for damages was shocked pissed cause my dog got hit walked back found my dog had my mother run her to vet while I waited for police 30 mins have passed cop gets to my house driver of vehicle went on there way never once did come up to say sorry do the ladie have any responsibility to let owner no she hit my dog ?

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 4 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

charlie, I'm very sorry your dog got hit. I can understand why a driver might not come to notify the owner about hitting a dog. In today's world, who knows how an angry owner might respond. So, notifying police, it seems to me, is the appropriate action.

Jeremy 2 months ago

this happened to me today. I didn't really think I started to drive away... lots of stray dogs in my area and it was on a bridge so turning stopping in the middle wasn't and option. but I turned around... a neighbor had already called 911 and the police and owner arrived shortly after... thanks for wise advise.

Isolde 2 months ago

The self justification for not stopping oozing from some posts is disgusting. My mom's little dog got hit recently. Out in the country right by their driveway and the person didn't stop. She escaped out the door when people came over and bolted for the road. She was standing in the middle of one lane when my mom noticed her. My mom saw the car coming but was a ways away from the road. It was awful because the driver on an empty open highway didn't swerve brake or anything. Just ran over her and kept going. My son adored that dog. He was there but thankfully didn't see it. He is heartbroken his little friend is gone.

Sometimes animals get killed. Sometimes it is drivers who don't care and sometimes it is loose animals on purpose. But sometimes it is an escaped animal. So wether or not that animal is loose on purpose doesn't make its death any less sad. Or you as the driver less responsible. If you are a little scardey cat and can't handle seeing the child whose pet you killed cry then call the police. But don't just drive off.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, Isolde, for sharing a perspective that every driver needs to hear.

PAMELA PETRONI 2 months ago


Amanda 7 weeks ago

Thanks so much for this article! Unfortunately i had no idea on what to do the other night driving home from work. It was very dark and i was on a back road going the speed limit of 45 mph. All of the sudden i have a dog a dark colored one possibly a rottweiler in front of my vehicle not moving standing directly in my lane. I didn't even see it until it was right in front of my vehicle and i jad mo time yo break or move anywhere. It was the most horrible thing i had ever experienced. I have hit a squirrel and a raccoon once and it really bummed me out as i am a very big animal lover. I own two dogs myself and other animals. Well as i hit this dog i realized what had happened and i was in shock tired from work and didn't really grasp what had happened as I've never had this happen to me. I kept driving. ... i know I'm a horrible person / animal owner and i can't stop thinking about it. Like should i have stopped and tried to help or call for help? I honestly didn't know what to do so i just prayed about it and hope that it servied or that someone was able to help it or if it was really hurt that it passed quickly and didn't suffer. I don't think i will ever shake the memory. It's something i wouldnt ever expect to happen to me and i know now after reading this and after experiencing what i did i will definitely do things differently if i ever happen to be put in a situation ever in the future.

Dierdre 4 weeks ago

I can't begin to wrap my head around driving off. At least pull over and call 911. Even if it's to put it out of its misery. I have Rescue dogs ,a fenced yard,harness with numbers.My one dog has more energy than a pogo stick, but at night I stick a glow Sticks on her harness,I check the gates,she still figures something. So I understand the dog that gets out,Stick glow stick on them.all it takes is a second.with texting and driving it's not going good to get better.we need to be pro active

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