Have you ever hit an animal with your car?
Whether it's a companion animal—such as a dog or a cat—or wildlife, striking another living creature with a vehicle is a traumatic experience for most drivers. Further, depending on the size of the animal, that collision could cause serious damage to a car or people, and, in some cases, result in human death.
Sadly, some pets are the victims of animal "hit and runs": incidents where drivers unintentionally strike cats or dogs and then drive off.
Since pets are considered property under Canadian law, Vancouver Police Sgt. Steve Addison told Vancouver Is Awesome that a person could be investigated under the Motor Vehicle Act for failing to take proper steps to notify the owner of damaged property, such as in the aforementioned scenario.
But this sort of incident doesn't get reported very often.
"In 15 years of policing, I’ve never come across the situation you described, however, it’s possible that someone’s pet could be classified as property," he explained, adding that "this would likely not apply to a wild animal or a stray."
Addison noted that cases like this would likely be turned over to the SPCA.
How often do these incidents happen?
While these incidents may not be reported to police, Animal Law Lawyer Victoria Shroff told V.I.A. in a phone interview that they aren't a rare occurrence. In fact, animals in the city and across the country are frequently injured and killed in traffic.
Most collisions are accidents and sometimes drivers aren't doing anything wrong—an animal might just bolt out in front of their car at the last minute. But after these incidents occur, drivers should stop and check on the animal.
In a recent incident, Shroff said someone stopped traffic when they spotted a raccoon that had been hit by a car and was injured on the road. The person who hit it had driven off but the good Samaritan called animal services. When the animal control officer came, they wrapped the injured critter in a couple of white towels and placed it into the truck to take to the veterinarian.
"The idea of dealing with it rather than driving away is the right thing to do," she noted, adding that it is also the legal thing to do. If there is a collar, the owners should be called. However, even if a cat or a dog doesn't have a collar it might have a microchip and the owner can be reached.
But pet owners also have a duty to protect their furry best pals.
"Be careful with your pet. Please don't let your pet out alone," she said.
How can you "pet-proof" your backyard?
Making sure that Fido can't jump over or dig under your fence is key, explained the animal law lawyer. With cats, the BC SPCA recommends keeping them indoors at all times and building a "catio" or "cat patio" so your feline friends can get some fresh air. All pets should be leashed when waking on the city's streets.
Who to call if you hit an animal in Vancouver
John Gray is the manager of Animal Services for Vancouver. He explained to V.I.A. in an emailed statement that the City of Vancouver’s Animal Control Bylaw regulates domestic and farm animals. The province oversees wildlife. Animal Control Officers (ACO) are out in the field seven days a week between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.
For incidents involving dogs, cats or other domestic and/or farm animals, residents can call:
- 311 between 7 a.m. – 11 p.m.
- 911 between 11 p.m. – 7 a.m.
For incidents where the owner is incapacitated, Gray said you should call 911. If the owner isn't present, Animal Control Officers will take temporary custody of the animal until they can connect with the owner. If an incident occurs at night, VPD officers will respond. Under their care, Animal Services staff may:
- Transport the injured animal to the City’s contracted vet or Vancouver Animal Emergency for triage and care
- Transport the animal to our shelter for ongoing care
"If the owner is not located or connected to within 72 hours, Animal Services staff may take possession of the animal and make decisions regarding the animal’s care," he said.
For incidents involving injured wildlife, residents can call the SPCA’s hotline at 1-855-622-7722. Incidents involving deceased animals can be reported to the City via 311 or the VanConnect app.