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What to do if you hit an animal while driving

What to do if you hit an animal while driving

Hitting an animal while driving can really leave you shaken, but don’t panic. Our simple guide covers what you need to know and the steps you should take, if the worst does happen. 

Daniel Hutson
From the Motor team
minute read
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Posted 27 JANUARY 2020

What should I do if I accidentally hit an animal while driving?

Hitting an animal with your car or bike is upsetting, but it’s important to stay calm. There could be legal ramifications for some animal-related road accidents, so it’s good to be aware of the law.  

The first thing to do if you’ve hit an animal is to slow to a safe stop. You’ll need to remain at the scene long enough for any other parties, such as the animal’s owner, the police or the RSPCA, to take your details. This applies even if the accident wasn’t your fault. 

An injured animal could try to defend itself, so take care. If it’s a domestic pet, see if you can find the owner’s details on a collar, if it’s safe to do so.

You can report an injured animal to the RSPCA in England or Wales, the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA), or the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (USPCA). The RSPCA may recommend a local vet if it’s safe for you to transport the animal. You won’t have to pay the fees for any treatment. 

If the animal is dead and can be moved, clear it from the road to prevent obstruction and further accidents. 

Check your car for any damage. Make sure it’s safe to drive before leaving the scene. 

What to do if you hit a dog, cow or other domesticated animal

You must file a police report, by law, if you hit a:

  • Dog
  • Cow or cattle
  • Sheep
  • Horse
  • Goat
  • Pig
  • Donkey or mule

Failure to do so is a criminal offence. 

What to do if you hit a cat, deer, bird or other wild animal

If you hit a cat, badger, bird, rabbit, fox or deer, you don’t need to report it. Cats may be included in mandatory reporting laws in future but, at the moment, they’re exempt. The RSPCA do encourage that you call them, or their counterparts, if you injure or kill an animal.

Will hitting an animal while driving affect my insurance?

It’s always best to tell your insurance provider if you have an accident involving an animal, even if you don’t intend to make a claim. The terms and conditions of your insurance might require you to log all incidents.  

If you’re unsure about when you’ll need to make a claim, read our guide on the claims process.

Tips to avoid hitting an animal while driving

It’s always important to drive safely, but there are a few extra precautions that could help you avoid hitting an animal: 

  • Stay within the speed limit at all times
  • Keep an eye out for road signs indicating deer or other wildlife  
  • Be extra careful in the early hours of the morning or late in the evening, when animals could be roaming and visibility is poor
  • Take care in residential areas where there might be domestic pets
  • Make sure your lights are working properly

For tips on driving safely in tricky conditions, read our guide to winter driving safety.

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