Speciesism? Cats vs Dogs in UK

Speciesism is about favouring one species of animal over another. It usually refers to favouring the rights of the human, homo sapiens, over other species. In this instance I am discussing what appears to be the better rights bestowed upon the dog compared to the cat.

The UK government demonstrates speciesism when creating legislation concerning cats and dogs. I am referring to the Road Traffic Act 1988.

There are at least two references to dogs in the Act. The domestic cat is not mentioned.

Section 170 of the Act makes it obligatory for a driver to stop and report to the police an accident with a dog that is on the road when the vehicle or the dog is “damaged”. The Act does indeed refer to “damage” to a dog or the vehicle which puts things into perspective. How the people who wrote the Act can refer to injury to a dog as “damage” is beyond me.

Cat on the road

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

The exact wording of the relevant parts of the Act are as follows:

170 Duty of driver to stop, report accident and give information or documents.

(1) This section applies in a case where, owing to the presence of a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place, an accident occurs by which—
(a) personal injury is caused to a person other than the driver of that mechanically propelled vehicle, or
(b) damage is caused—
(i) to a vehicle other than that mechanically propelled vehicle or a trailer drawn by that mechanically propelled vehicle, or
(ii) to an animal other than an animal in or on that mechanically propelled vehicle or a trailer drawn by that mechanically propelled vehicle, or…...
(8) In this section “animal” means horse, cattle, ass, mule, sheep, pig, goat or dog.

The other side of the coin is that a dog’s owner commits an offence if he lets his dog wander onto a road. The exceptions are sheep dogs that are working or dogs used for sport such as fox hounds.

27 Control of dogs on roads.

(1) A person who causes or permits a dog to be on a designated road without the dog being held on a lead is guilty of an offence.
subsection (1) above does not apply to dogs proved—
(a) to be kept for driving or tending sheep or cattle in the course of a trade or business, or
(b) to have been at the material time in use under proper control for sporting purposes.

In contrast, cats are hardly ever mentioned in any legislation. They are almost outside the law. If a cat is hit by a car there is no legal obligation to do anything. Of course there is a moral obligation to stop and help the cat, which means finding the owner and taking the cat to the vet if injured. I wonder how many people do this?

Why is the dog apparently treated with more concern than the cat? Well, I don’t believe this is about the dog. I think it is about people and their possessions. Dogs are generally bigger than cats. They can cause damage to a car and affect the driver’s ability to control the car. An accident with a dog is liable to have ramifications, while hitting a cat will not.

However, the reference to dogs in the Road Traffic Act 1988 does show speciesism. The favoured species is neither the cat nor the dog but the human and his car.

There are other examples of speciesism concerning the cat and dog. In general the cat gets a raw deal.

Picture by [new account: DitiPenguin]

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.
Useful links
Anxiety - reduce it
FULL Maine Coon guide - lots of pages
Children and cats - important

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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7 Responses

  1. Reality Strykes says:

    If you want those kinds of laws to protect cats, then you must face-up to the responsibility of being fined and convicted for letting a cat roam free. NONE of you want that kind of responsibility.

    Note: this comment has been censored because it was insulting…Michael (Admin).

    • marc says:

      I think Michael was saying the cat is smaller and a danger in some sense compared to an average dog so the cat doesn’t even meet the requirements of officially existing and being dealt with by law, like other animals mentioned are.

      • Michael says:

        Yes, my suggestion (only) is that it is all about how much damage an animal can do to a car and a person. If an animal does not pose a danger it is not mentioned in legislation. Size counts. The people who draft the law are not usually like us.

    • Rose says:

      Thanks Woody for your 5 cents,your ignorant cat and cat lover hating remarks will add up one day to a nice sum to help the very creatures you despise so it’s not US who are the idiots that’s for sure.

    • Michael says:

      Well, Woody, the laws I refer to don’t protect dogs. They are for the protection of people. So, you are writing nonsense as usual.

  2. Ruth aka Kattaddorra says:

    Yes as always the cat gets a raw deal.
    we’ve campaigned for a long time without success to make it a law that running over a cat should be reported to the police and the person driving the car should ensure the cat is taken care of by a vet if alive, or scanned for a micro chip or his/her details kept by a vet, if dead.
    It’s hard to know where cats come into the scheme of things, on one hand some people say they are pets and should be kept strictly indoors, that they don’t need to go out. How come, when dogs are supposed to have access to fresh air and exercise that many cats are denied it? Cats and dogs were both domesticated to be companion animals but dogs have become much better off in that they have the best of both worlds, indoors and outdoors and are protected much more by law.
    On the other hand cats are treated like wild life by the law, just the same as someone running over a rabbit, a hedgehog, a bird, then driving on leaving their ‘road kill’ behind.
    Humans not animals have made this world a dangerous place, yet cats amongst others are paying the price!

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