It is every dog lover’s nightmare: Their dog being hit by a car or other road vehicle. Again, for drivers one of the scariest and most horrifying things that can possibly happen to them is hitting a dog that has strayed into the road. For the dog owner, car driver or caring passer by, knowing what to do in such a situation can be difficult, as the shock that such an event can cause means that even sensible, logical people freeze up and have problems processing what they have witnessed in the immediate aftermath.
If you have ever wondered what you would do in the case of a road traffic accident involving a dog, whether you were the dog owner, the car driver or simply a passer by, read on for some useful information that might just help to save a life.
Preventing road traffic accidents from happening in the first place
No article on how to manage the aftermath of a vehicle hitting a dog would be complete if we did not make mention of the obvious ways to minimise the chances of an accident happening in the first place.
Always keep your dog on a lead when walking along a road, and ensure that your garden or other outdoor spaces that you go to and allow your dog to run loose in are properly enclosed so that your dog cannot wander off.
As a driver, always keep within the stated speed limits, and don’t be afraid to drive more slowly if the situation warrants it. Keep a lookout for hazards ahead of you, as well as a peripheral awareness of what is happening on the pavements. Leave enough space between you and the vehicles in front, and make sure that your brakes are in good condition in case you need to stop suddenly.
If you are involved in a collision between your vehicle and a dog, you must stop, and the police must be informed. It’s the law!
The driver of a car involved in a collision with a dog is obliged to stop and stay on the scene until the police have given the driver permission to leave (which usually only happens after they have attended the scene), and the police must be informed of such an incident.
If you are not the driver involved and the driver drives off after the collision or does not stick around to await the police, call the police on 999 and try to take down the registration details of the vehicle to pass onto them if possible.
The instinctive reaction for a dog owner, passer by or responsible driver when a vehicle has hit a dog is to run into the road after the dog, paying little mind to the surrounding traffic or other hazards.
But before going to the dog to see how they have fared, remember to risk-assess the surrounding area and keep yourself safe at all times. You cannot help the dog if you yourself get hurt by passing cars or other hazards! Ask otherpeople present to set up a hazard sign (many people carry these in the boots of their cars) and to slow down or direct traffic around the accident scene, or undertake these tasks yourself while somebody else assesses the dog. This is just as important as taking care of the dog!
Often, when a dog has been hit, other car drivers will stop to assist as well, which can be very helpful.
If you are lucky, you will have your phone with you and the number of a local vet already programmed into it. If not, ask passers by or other drivers (who may be local) if any of them can provide a number and call a vet, or dial 192 to find a number if this is not possible. It is important to call the vet asap, particularly if it is outside of working hours, as it can take some time for a vet on call to get to their clinic or to your location.
You may be able to call a vet out to attend the accident scene, but it is highly likely and (assuming the dog can be moved) preferable and faster to take the dog directly to the nearest veterinary clinic instead.
Also, bear in mind that the police must always be informed of an accident involving a vehicle and a dog, and there may be liability issues on the part of either the vehicle driver or the dog owner.
At the scene of an accident and without veterinary training and the appropriate equipment to treat the dog, you will find yourself very limited in terms of what you can do.
Assuming that the dog is still alive, first of all, try to keep the dog calm and as still as possible, and attempt to keep them from causing themselves any further injury. If the dog is still in the road, you may need to move them out of the road to keep them safe, which is not ideal but may be essential depending on the location of the accident and what help is available.
While somebody is calling for help and arranging to speak to a local vet, perform essential first aid on the animal, checking to see if they are able to breathe unobstructed and doing what you can to stop any bleeding.
The dog will often go into shock, so keeping them warm and calm is important. Wrap them or cover them in coats or anything else that is to hand, and talk soothingly to them. A dog that is hurt and scared may behave defensively, so do not put yourself in danger of being bitten.
Never offer an injured dog food or water, or administer any medications (human or canine) to them without getting the go-ahead from a vet first. Doing any of these things may delay or interfere with their veterinary treatment, or make matters worse.
If at all possible, you or someone else present at the accident scene should talk to the vet that you have arranged to take the dog to about steps that you can take while on the scene to help the dog, safely move and transport them, and what else to do. Even if the dog appears to be uninjured or only suffering from minor cuts and bruises, it is vital to take them to the surgery for a check up, as they may have sustained internal injuries that will not become evident until later on.
How to get the dog to the vet is the next challenge, and hopefully you will have a range of options available to you. If you have a car on scene or another driver is willing to take you, this is not a problem. If this is not the case, you my have to call someone in your family to take you, or summon a taxi. Try to ensure that somebody else present at the scene is doing what they can to make this happen while you deal with the dog, as time is of the essence.
You maybe able to ask the vet to attend the scene for emergency treatment and to provide transport to the surgery for the dog, but this is not always the case.
Before you leave the scene with the injured dog, try to get the details of the other people present; witnesses, the car and driver concerned, the dog owner (if not you), and the police if they are present, as you may need to provide this information to the vet or police later on.
If you are not the owner of the dog and the dog appears to be unsupervised, check at nearby houses if the owner lives there, or see if you can track them down from the details that will hopefully be shown on the dog’s collar tags. The vet will also be able to scan the dog for a microchip as another option, as obviously contacting the dog’s owner is vital, in order to let them know what has happened and find out how they wish to proceed with treatment.
Veterinary surgeons will provide basic emergency treatment to any dog, such as relieving pain and addressing any immediate problems such as bleeding, but beyond this, what form the treatment protocol takes and even if the dog may need to be put to sleep are all questions for the dog owner to agree in consultation with the vet.
Veterinary surgeons will not refuse basic and essential treatment to any animal, even if the owner cannot immediately be traced, but they are not obliged to go further than this without the input of the owner or someone willing to foot the bill.
In some cases, the driver that hit the dog will be willing or even eventually, legally obliged to pay for the necessary treatment required by the dog (depending on who is ultimately found to be liable for the accident) or to compensate the owner for their loss if the dog must be put to sleep. Good communication with the vet and having the contact details for all of the relevant parties involved in and witnessing the accident is important.