I’m sure you’ve seen it a hundred times: an animal lying on the side of the road. In fact, one out of 17 car collisions involves a car hitting a wild animal. What do you do? Of course most people just keep driving because the animal appears dead. Or it’s a busy road and it would be hard to pull over. In instances when you can pull over, though, there’s a good chance that the animal is not dead yet. On the other hand, maybe it’s your pet that’s been hit, or maybe you’ve hit an animal. In these cases, what should you do? Read on to learn about:
- How to help an animal on the side of the road
- What to do if you’ve hit an animal
- If your pet has been hit
Helping Another Animal
First off, if you’re pulling your car over in a busy area to help another animal, be aware of your surroundings at all times, especially on back roads with blind spots. You might want to help this animal, but your safety is paramount. Make sure you put your hazard lights on if you pull over on the side of the road.
When approaching the animal, walk slowly so as not to scare it. HowStuffWorks recommends speaking softly and talking to the animal soothingly. Even if it’s injured, an animal might lunge towards you and try to bite if it’s afraid.
Even if it appears dead from far off, it might be breathing. If the animal is alive, don’t try to move it. Instead, call a local animal control agency (or if you don’t know the number, call 9-1-1, who will then find it for you) and wait until the agency arrives.
If it’s a domesticated animal you’re helping, you can do a little more, as the risks of the animal harming you are less. Keep the animal warm by putting a blanket over it as you wait for the animal control agency. If you see wounds, you can gently press a towel against them. Of course even if the animal is domesticated but showing aggression, keep some distance and wait rather than trying to directly interact with the animal.
If You’ve Hit an Animal
If you’ve hit a wild animal, you should still pull over if the road allows, then call your local animal control agency or 9-1-1. You can try to remove the animal’s body from the road if it’s in the way for other drivers, but by all means, do not risk your own safety. It might be better to wait for help. Make sure you’re specific when directing the person on the phone to your location. Wait for help to arrive if possible.
If you’ve hit a domesticated animal, it’s against the law not to report the incident. In fact, it’s against the law not to stop the car as well. Again, be careful when pulling over, and put your hazard lights on. Try to care for the animal as much as you can as you wait for someone to arrive. Unless the animal is aggressive, follow the same directions as in the previous section: place a towel over the animal to keep it warm and combat shock, try to staunch the blood flow on its wounds, and if you have some handy on you, even apply some wound spray to prevent infection.
No doubt you’ll feel terrible about hitting the animal, but do what you can for it. It might not have been preventable, but a few things you can do to safeguard against something like this are to follow the speed limit, be careful about sharp bends and blind spots, especially in wooded areas, and use your high beams at night.
If Your Pet’s Been Hit
Of course this is a heart wrenching moment for you, but stay calm and do what you can as you transport your pet to the vet.
First, PetMD recommends that even if your pet’s been hit, you should still use a muzzle or makeshift muzzle for a dog since dogs can become aggressive in extreme distress. For a makeshift muzzle, you can use a shoelace, scarf, tape, or leash. However, don’t muzzle your dog if they are having trouble breathing. If your pet is having trouble breathing, remove their collar and open their mouth to check for obstructions.
Wrap your pet in a blanket and apply pressure to any wounds. If your pet is too big to carry, you can transport them with a blanket acting as a stretcher if you have someone else to help. If you think your pet might have broken bones, don’t transport them with a towel. Instead, use a hard surface, like a board of wood, and place a towel over it. Use this so that you don’t disturb bones that are already out of place.
Once you have your pet inside your vehicle, call a veterinary hospital and let them know of the situation and when you will be arriving. You should not give a pet that’s been hit any food, water, or medication.
It’s important that you do what you can to prevent your pet from getting hit. We recommend that you keep your cat indoors. With dogs, keep them on a leash, and don’t leave them alone in your yard without watching them. Be careful not to open the window too much when driving—some pets might jump out. Finally, even when you’re walking your dog, be aware of how close they are to you, especially if the leash is extendable. Dogs like to jerk if they see something they want to chase after, and you might not have the power to counteract their strength.
Overall, dealing with an injured animal is a stressful experience, especially if it’s your pet. Stay calm and be alert of both your safety and the animal’s condition. Wild animals feel pain, too, so it’s important that you still call an animal control agency so they can at least euthanize an animal on the side of the road in extreme pain.