There’s been a campaign in the UK for some time to make it a legal requirement for drivers to stop and report collisions with cats. It makes sense to millions of ordinary people but it doesn’t make sense to the UK government. There was a petition which garnered 102,436 signatures. That’s why the government had to debate it which they did on 9 January 2023. We have a report on that debate which tells us that the reason why the UK government refused to introduce legislation was because:
“Having a law making it a requirement to report road accidents involving cats would be very difficult to enforce and we have reservations about the difference it would make to the behaviour of drivers, who are aware that they have run over a cat and do not report it. Although there is no obligation to report all animal deaths on roads, Rule 286 of The Highway Code advises drivers to report any accident involving an animal to the police, and if possible, they should make enquiries to ascertain the owner of domestic animals and advise them of the situation.”UK Government
So, the reason given is that would be difficult to enforce. The other reason is that the government has the reservations as stated. I find the arguments quite feeble to be honest because drivers have to stop when they hit a dog so what’s the difference? The true reason is that it would take primary legislation to change the law and this government don’t want precious debating time clogged up with marginal new legislation. In short it is not important enough to think about the welfare of domestic cats.
The current law is out of date. Dogs are put in the same bracket as horses, cattle, asses, mules, sheep, pigs and goats in respect of reporting a road traffic accident. You can see where they’re going: dogs are considered to be working animals.
Although there are many more restrictions on dog ownership because dogs can kill people in direct physical contact and cats can’t, essentially both are companion animals. The dog was bred to be a working animal once upon a time but nowadays they are companions to almost everybody.
There is an obligation on cat owners to ensure that their cat does not harm somebody else which is the same as for dogs.
It is the charity Cats Matter which campaigned and I believe continues to campaign for the legislation to be changed and for it to be compulsory for local authorities to scan any cat found that is microchipped and to notify their owners. But there are reports of local authorities simply dumping cats in waste bins when they are found by the side of the road having been killed by a car.
Although it’s good practice for local authorities to scan any cat or dog that’s been hit by a car so they can tell their owner. And apparently Highways England has guidelines for contractors to follow when they find a dead cat or dog. Once again, the guidelines require them to identify the cat and to contact their owners.
Another factor against a change in the law is that all cat owners must have their cat microchipped by 10 June 2024. And I believe that another reason why this government don’t want to introduce legislation which puts cats on a par with dogs in terms of road traffic accident is because there are all these little rules in place already including obligatory micro-chipping which is to be introduced soon, which means that a cat hit by a car can be identified through a microchip and the owners told.
It would seem that ultimately the reason why drivers have to stop when they hit a dog is to make sure that the owner knows about it.
But in my view, it is still a feeble response by the UK government who formally responded on 22 February 2022 as follows:
The Government has no plans to make it an offence to drive off after hitting a cat. A focus for this Government is to make roads safer for all users, which will in turn reduce the risk to all animals.
The government presented some fancy excuses but the bottom line is that they don’t want to bother to introduce new legislation on something so pifflingly unimportant from the government’s perspective but which is very important for cat caregivers.
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