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

I have had the unfortunate experience of hitting a dog with my car and would like to share advice on what you should do in that situation.

What to Do if You Hit a Dog

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.

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 would be if I ran over a dog. What, exactly, is a driver supposed to do when their vehicle hits (or, as in my case, is hit by) a dog, cat, or another domestic animal? What is he or she required to do?

What Should I Do After Hitting a Dog With My Car?

An authoritative answer to that question proved surprisingly difficult to find. Some of the advice given on the internet seemed problematical, at best. 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. The following steps are my understanding of what a driver should immediately do when his or her vehicle hits a domestic animal.

  • Stop your car. Get out where it is safe to do so.
  • Check on the animal. If the dog is still alive, call for assistance and wait until help arrives. Move the animal only if you can do so safely and it's necessary to prevent further injury or possible accidents from cars swerving to avoid hitting it.
  • Use caution when moving the dog. A hurt and scared animal can become aggressive and lash out or bite. If possible, try to muzzle it with some type of fabric. You can use gloves and a blanket or jacket for protection as well.
  • If no owner is present, check the dog for tags. You can use the information on the tag to contact the owner. If there are people around, you can also ask if they recognize the dog and can identify the owner.
  • Call the police or animal control for assistance. They can make sure the dog is taken to a veterinarian where it can receive care. The vet can also scan for an identification microchip.

The laws of most states require that if you hit a domestic animal, you must stop and notify the appropriate state or local authority. If you don't do so, you could find yourself in legal hot water.

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.

In the newspaper account of Ruggiero’s arrest, chief of police Joseph Faughnan 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.”

In general, if you stop and make a reasonable effort to help the animal, the legal responsibility for the accident will not fall on you, but on the owner for allowing the dog to run loose.

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

— Police Chief Joseph Faughnan

(Note that laws may vary from state to state, so you should check the law in your location).

CCSPCA advises 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. You should also be aware that if you take the animal to a veterinarian and the owner can't be identified, you may potentially be responsible for the veterinary bills. If you take this action, be sure to discuss this matter with the clinic beforehand.

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.

Am I Liable for Hitting a Dog With My Car?

Most jurisdictions have ordinances 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. However, 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.

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. You could be charged with animal cruelty or failure to notify owners of property damage. Laws can vary from state to state, but as a general rule, you should stop after hitting a dog or other domestic animal. If the owner is present, you may give them your information like you would after a car accident. If the owner is not on the scene, it's especially important for you to contact your local police department, an animal care agency, or even call 911. Contacting the authorities will demonstrate that you made a good faith effort to help the animal.

Keep in mind that a number of states, such as Colorado, Maryland, Ohio, and California, have already enacted laws that protect first responders for pets that need emergency aid. Other states, including New York and Wisconsin, have similar laws that are pending.

Who Is Financially Liable for the Damage to My Car If I Hit a Dog?

Your car may have significant damage after hitting a dog. Most comprehensive insurance coverage plans will pay for damage caused by animals. If you are able to locate the owner of the animal, the claim may be picked up by their home insurance policy.

Remember that typically the owner of the dog is legally required to have their pet on a leash or restrained in some way. Unless you were speeding or driving recklessly, the owner will normally be held liable since their dog should not have been running free, especially near a road where the the animal can cause accidents.

What Should I Do If I Kill a Dog With My Car?

The steps you should take if you killed a dog are not substantially different. You should not panic and drive off. Remember that you typically won't be held legally responsible for hitting a dog that's out on the road. In many places you are not even legally required to swerve out of the way since doing so could cause an accident.

Rather than just continuing on your way after hitting the animal, stop and pull over. If the body is in a location that could pose a danger to oncoming traffic, remove it from the road if you can do so safely. Then call the police or animal services to report the incident and tell them where to find the body so they can pick it up.

If your car is damaged, you may have a case against the owner. However, you should be sensitive to the fact that the owner will probably be feeling devastated by the loss of their pet, so you may not want to press the matter at that time. Even if the damage to your vehicle is significant, try to be compassionate and refrain from heaping blame on the owner or the dog.

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.

What Should I Do if Someone Hits My Dog With Their Car?

Seeing your dog get hit by a car is an extremely traumatic experience; it's a pet owner's worst nightmare. Your immediate actions should be similar to what has been stated above: move your dog out of the road, be careful not to aggravate its injuries, and immediately take it to a vet. Even if your dog was just slightly grazed by a car traveling at a slow speed, you should still have it examined. And, just to cover your bases, you should take photographs of the damage and the scene (after giving aid to your dog).

Can I Sue a Driver for Hitting My Dog?

Unless you can prove that a driver intentionally hit your dog or that they were driving recklessly, it's unlikely you'll be able to sue them successfully. In fact, it's more likely that they could sue you since your dog should not have been loose. If the driver did stop to check on the animal, you should be thankful for their compassion. You definitely should not be confrontational or try to make them feel bad. Keep in mind that someone who just ran over a dog is probably feeling awful about it already.

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.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2014 Ronald E Franklin


Ryan on May 14, 2020:

I ran over a dog in the morning mind you it was two dogs out on the road I honked they ran to sidewalk on the right in between those blue and green trash bins And one of them ran back to the road and I tired to swerve to my left but there was incoming traffic and I hit it I slowed down more thinking if I should pull aside and I seen the dog laying lifeless I looked around for any people that could possibly be owners but nobody was around besides two cars that were driving in the opposite lane. I did not get off my car and I called 911 and began to drive. Dispatch said they would have someone go and pick it up. But one of the cars managed to follow me home and told me off for not pulling over I told him I slowed down and didn’t see nobody I was not going to pick up the dog so why pull over and he kept telling me how cruel I am and how he has my plate info I am going to be held liable and I told him I had already called the police and he kept yelling out how I was lying. I filled him off as he was backing up my apartment complex parking lots. I feel horrible running over a dog believe me I am a dog lover and owner my self. I was not speeding nor driving recklessly as it was in a residential area. The guy didn’t have to follow me home I was scared more as I already was after the accident imagine if he were a crazy person with a gun.

Jolly on January 01, 2020:

Today me and my mom was out coming home from food lion and i said ma it adog up there she said is it by our car i said no so the dog ran under the car and the car served trying not to hit the dog but he did and broke the dogs leg and kept driving

Deserie Garcia on November 22, 2019:

Tuesday my dog was ran over by a car or truck but he was just lefted like nothing his heart was out of his body and head was smashed in and now I want justest for my son.

chag70 on November 15, 2019:

Can you just leave a note under the dog's collar like you would leave a note under the windshield after you hit a parked car?

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on August 15, 2019:

Jody, I can't give legal advice, but for what it's worth, my personal opinion is that based on what you've shared, I don't see how you can be held liable.

jody on August 15, 2019:

i ran over a dog during the morning, i didn't see until the last moment by then it was to late to stop. But the owner boyfriend was walking the dog without a leash and he was way a head of the dog. So after i hit it ,i pulled over stop and checked on the poor dog then the owners boyfriend came . i said i was sorry that i will be right back to give them a ride for help. So i did call the cops told what happen then gave them a ride. and payed the owner for their gas so they can get help. Now the sent me the animal bill of $800 dollars and want me to pay for it... what to do??

Darryl G Johnson on July 21, 2019:

Last night I hit a dog with my car, someone was flashing there high beams at me I could not see the dog until it was to late I stopped to check if it was OK but it ran off! Other people were there, I guess they were trying to catch the dog! The lady was flashing her headlights at me to make me slow down? I stayed there for a while they could not find the dog! I told them I was sorry I hit the dog and hopped it was ok! I did not know what to do! So I went on my way! Did I do the right thing? Should I have went to help look for the dog?

): on June 25, 2019:

Oh no i'm crying after seeing those picters

K on April 20, 2019:

Well, I hit a dog today while leaving my neighborhood and I feel terrible. I parked, walked back to the adults tending and they assured me it was not my fault since it was running loose in the street after breaking his chain for the 1st time. Terrible feeling.

L jill on February 24, 2019:

Tonight I was just taking a short drive to bring ice cream to my elderly mom and 2 minutes into my 10 minute drive I felt my car shake and heard a loud sound. I immediately stopped and horrified to see this most beautiful dog I had hit. There was a jogger who told me the dog just ran into my car. I called 911 and also the animal hospital. My heart is broken. The policeman told me the dog was dead so he would not take him to the animal hospital. I am devastated. The dog watcher who was driving around the neighborhood to look for the dog was devastated. The jogger and the police kept telling me it “was not my fault” BUT I had never harmed anything and my head and heart is in extreme pain. I wish I could turn back the clock and had left 5 minutes later / earlier.

voxleo on September 30, 2018:

once hit a kitten late at night in a residential neighborhood as

I left my mother's house to go home. I had seen it just by the roadside as I made turn to go downhill and tried to brake as it dashed across just in front of me, but both of us hesitated at just the wrong time and it just was too close to stop entirely. The sad part is that it probably would have just missed being hit if I had not braked at all, but continued or sped up, but it essentially just ran right under the tires trying to break for it...

It was thankfully over very quickly, at least, as it died almost immediately, but I had to let someone know and found that even though it was about 2AM, there was a light on at a house across the street where it looked like the kitten might have been headed and I knocked on the door hoping they might at least know if the cat lived nearby. They said it was a stray, one that had been part of a litter birthed under a neighbor's house a few doors down, but was not a pet, at least. They said they would call to have someone collect it, and I went home feeling just awful, but glad I had not taken someone's companion away.

It could have been worse, but there is just no way I can fathom not doing SOMETHING, just driving off...

gafgae on July 11, 2018:

i ran over a dog when it was my first time driving, we were going through some country roads and the dog ran straight for my wheels, my dad just told me to drive away. I felt horrible. But after i thought back over it i realized it wasnt my fault, im glad i drove away because if i didnt i might of been charged for something that wasnt even my fault. this was in arkansas btw

Jl on May 18, 2018:

I've accidentally ran one dog over.. It had no tags but was loose due to their owner letting it roam free on the streets it was a known good dog which I felt and still feel sorry for.. I apologized to the family they didn't want police or any authorities near they just wanted money for the Good dog that I hit and still feel sadness for.. they took th dog in a trash bag to later dispose of it.. I returned with the $200 they asked because (she also sells dogs).. and was told it was ok and not to worry by her and her family and once again was asked if I called anyone and I said no and again them saying it was ok no need to tell anyone..

david curtis on April 28, 2018:

I just want so bad to invent time travel to undue it. I dont want money, power, women, or personal greed. All i want is to stop the car a few seconds earlier, go knock on the door and say keep your dog inside or on a leash or just keep a watch on the dog.

Kade on April 23, 2018:

Unsure if this will get approved but it could be cool if it did.

Dave, if you're still guilty reach out to someone and talk. If that doesn't work consider finding and volunteering for a good animal charity (either time or money). Thats a physical way to make ammends and as you mentioned having lost an animal, might be fitting. My last idea is more extreme but again, considering you situation, may be mutually beneficial. You could adopt an animal (perhaps a dog) and commit yourself to looking after it. That way you're literally fixing the issue of having taken one life but stepping up and replacing that one by caring for another- ya know, karma? Either way, don't beat yourself up too bad. Everybody has skeletons in their closet.

Kade on April 23, 2018:

"For a moment I thought I had hit a child. But oh thankfully, I had hit a dog instead." I'm not going to lie, that line made my blood boil. I care for dogs much more than humans, especially kids. But I finished your article nonetheless and I'm not here to argue the value of human life over animals. There are many people who would choose to rescue a dog from drowning over a kid I can assure you. I'm guessing you said that because a human would have costed you more of course since the rest of your article seemed logically sound. I'm just saying to be more considerate, you and everyone. Many people consider dogs their children so taking those lives can be just as detrimental. I'm not going to excuse stupid owners...but stupid drivers should be punished if they don't reach out and also try and help the animal. If you do that and make ammends people won't hate you for your actions. Likewise, if the animal has physical identification you should notify the owners too. As hard as it might be, that can help you avoid trouble too and it's the decent thing to do. If one of my dogs were hit I'd be fumed at first of course regardless, but I'd be much more inclined to eventually forgive the person who gave a sincere apology and notified me.

Takeaway: Good people should always report bad/stupid people and incidents. Also, people keep your dogs on leashes if they're not A+ at recall or on your property.

David on April 20, 2018:

Thank you. I want you to know I hate animal cruelty as much as I hate German Nazis.It is sick beyond humanity. I just had to put my almost 20 year old cat down. I was heart broken. I started thinking about the dog and started hating myself. I am an animal lover And just needed to get this off my mind.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on April 19, 2018:

David Curtis - You made a mistake, but what's past can't be changed. Stop beating yourself up about this. Yes, you had that moment of carelessness, but to let it destroy your mental health today would be a tragedy. I'm sure that from now on you'll be very careful if you see an animal near the road. The key is to make up your mind that if anything like this should happen in the future, you'll handle it the right way. Then put the past behind you.

David Curtis on April 13, 2018:

Can I correct my sentence below. I have "no" desire to kill animals. Supposed to be a no

David Curtis on April 12, 2018:

after I hit a dog I and it died, i felt so bad I put it on the side of the road so it wouldnt be left for people to continue to run over. Then I left a letter of apology near the dog and I left. I did not want to. I wanted to fess up but I still feel so guilty that I want to be punished. I have a dog and a cat and they are are truly treasure beyond anything money can buy. I'm so sad that I took someones happiness away from them when i could have stopped. I had a moment of carelessness that is going to mentally destroy me for the rest of my life because every time I look at my pets, i think of what i took from someone. The dogs collar said its name was Paco. I will always hate myself for this. I feel like scum, even though I have desire to kill animals unless its hunting or fishing with purpose. Nothing deserves to die for nothing.

david curtis on April 12, 2018:

One time I was driving down my street at night. I saw an animal coming but thought it was a rabbit. It was dark. For some reason I kept going. Then it came into the road and I tried to avoid hitting it but still hit it. That was 5 years ago. I have been an animal lover my entire life. Time and time again I have felt so bad I wanted to kill myself as a way of saying I'm sorry hears your justice. Its like i want to be punished because even though I would never hit an animal or anything on purpose I'm so anxious about taking someones pet.

janice sexton on January 26, 2018:

well here where I live if you hit a dog and try and stop you could get killed by traffic and if you pull over you can get hit..if u try and help the dog and like me a senior with back problems what the heck.I f its night time and you stop you could be a victim and robbed.If you call the police , it takes awhile for them to come ..and by then the dog gets hit again because its to dangerous to try and move it when your older .

drsnowmon on December 15, 2017:

Apparently there are too many sadistic people in my neighborhood, I've seen a truck driver literally go out of his way to run over an animal even at the cost of endangering him/herself

Amy on November 21, 2017:

Never sigh in relief if you hit an animal.'s living, breathing, and feeling. Do the right thing and get help. It's horrible to say it's just an animal.

MRC on October 24, 2017:

It’s aways sad but as my HS drivers education teacher said “Don’t swerve for any animal and get into an accident”. Is it sad yes, but not as sad as hitting another car or a human. That is tragic.

Wendora on September 02, 2017:

A dog got loose in Pike County, PA. It was found deceased along a road. A friend of the owner went on a social media page and called the driver that hit the loose dog a "scumbag" and said that "they deserved to be shot". It was a big black Mastiff and maybe they thought they hit a deer. People are outraged that the driver of the car did not come forward or stop. I wonder who would be responsible for damage to the vehicle? I see a lot of runaway dogs that get killed by trains and no one screams at the conductor.

Keuka M Fields on August 13, 2017:

Never knew it can be legal action this has happened to me but sad to say when I stopped the dog just ran off and I said ok it's alright and pulled off

AC on July 31, 2017:

I hit a dog this morning and it ran off. I wasn't sure what to do so after I composed myself I continued on my way. If it was okay enough to run away that it wasn't injured, I hope. I also hope I never have to experience this again but I know to call the police next time. Thank you.

barbara rose on July 27, 2017:

what if a cop hits a family cat that is out door inside cat i have this cat every since he was a baby and he was just like family

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on May 29, 2017:

If the owner is determined to have not had their animal under appropriate control, they may well be responsible for damage to your car.

Stephanie on May 29, 2017:

What about the damages to my car? Is the dog owner responsible for this???

Janet on March 17, 2017:

What if u hit a small dog and don't realize it so u keep going but someone saw u and reported u

Insured Driver without a phone on March 15, 2017:

With the screwed up laws in this country, I'll bet any ambulance chasing lawyer will find a way to make any INSURED driver, have to pay for hitting a LOOSE dog even in the street, despite lease laws!

Tasha on March 13, 2017:

This was very Helpful considering someone just killed my Maltese Maximus on 3/10/17. Due to a hit and run driver. They just left my baby in the road. I had to run out in the street to pick him up. I was so distraught and upset. I couldn't remember the description of the car that hit him or even get license plate info. I was trying to stop the other cars from hitting him again. I was able to get to him and stop the third car that is when I got him out of the street. Know one got out of there car to help me. Know one stopped. My pet was a member of my family for 9 years. Losing him took a big piece from our families heart. He was a big piece of our route every day. My kids miss and love him. I have another fur baby. She is missing him every day. Animals grieve just as humans. I'm not sure how long it will take for her to get back to her normal routine. But, she is missing him every day and all she is doing is sleeping. I wish the person who hit my Maximus would have at least had the impathy to stop to see about him. Just as if it was a human. He/she had to see my baby on the side of the road.

Kay-kay on January 26, 2017:


Dierdre on November 04, 2016:

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

Amanda on October 15, 2016:

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.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on September 29, 2016:

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

Isolde on September 15, 2016:

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.

Jeremy on September 11, 2016:

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.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on July 31, 2016:

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.

charlie on July 31, 2016:

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 ?

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on July 29, 2016:

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.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on July 29, 2016:

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.

Amy from East Coast on July 29, 2016:

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!

LeedlesMI on May 08, 2016:

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.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on February 09, 2016:

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.

Jennifer Mugrage from Columbus, Ohio on January 20, 2016:

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.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on December 15, 2015:

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.

ProponentOfResponsiblyProtectingYourPets on December 15, 2015:

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.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on August 13, 2015:

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.

shockedp. on August 10, 2015:

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?

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on February 26, 2015:

Thanks, firstday.

Rebecca Be from Lincoln, Nebraska on February 26, 2015:

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

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on February 26, 2015:

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

peachy from Home Sweet Home on February 26, 2015:

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.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on December 26, 2014:

Thanks, Dressage Husband.

Stephen J Parkin from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada on December 26, 2014:

Good Advice Ron. I agree with you absolutely.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on December 26, 2014:

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.

Elaine on December 26, 2014:

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.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on December 21, 2014:

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

Doodlehead from Northern California on December 21, 2014:

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

Beyza on December 19, 2014:

Thniking like that shows an expert at work

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on September 15, 2014:

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.

TheHealthGuy LM from U.S.A. on September 15, 2014:

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.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on September 12, 2014:

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.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on September 12, 2014:

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.

Rosemary Amrhein on September 12, 2014:

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,


Leilani Allmon on September 12, 2014:

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.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on September 12, 2014:

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.

Alison Williams on September 11, 2014:

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.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on September 11, 2014:

Thanks, Barbara. I'm glad it helped.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on September 11, 2014:

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

Barbara Badder from USA on September 11, 2014:

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

Laura Smith from Pittsburgh, PA on September 11, 2014:

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!

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on September 11, 2014:

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.

Russell Pittock from Nakon Sawan Province, Thailand. on September 11, 2014:

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.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on September 11, 2014:

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

Marcelle Bell on September 11, 2014:

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!

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on September 11, 2014:

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.

Elizabeth Parker from Las Vegas, NV on September 11, 2014:

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.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on September 11, 2014:

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.

Marlene Bertrand from USA on September 11, 2014:

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!

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on September 11, 2014:

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.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on September 11, 2014:

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.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on September 11, 2014:

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.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on September 11, 2014:

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.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on September 11, 2014:

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.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on September 11, 2014:

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.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on September 11, 2014:

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.

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on September 11, 2014:

Thanks, sara0129. I appreciate you reading and commenting.

Dave Collado from San Jose California on September 11, 2014:

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.

Robin S from USA on September 11, 2014:

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.

Jaye Denman from Deep South, USA on September 11, 2014:

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++


Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on September 11, 2014:

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.

Sandi Yee on September 11, 2014:

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.

Moe Wood from Eastern Ontario on September 11, 2014:

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.

swilliams on September 11, 2014:

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!

Shamim Rajabali from Texas on September 11, 2014:

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

Ronald E Franklin (author) from Mechanicsburg, PA on September 11, 2014:

Thanks, techygran, for reading and for your congrats!