What to do if you hit an animal with your car: The law on reporting accidents explained

Practical advice on how to deal with a collision and whether you need to report hitting deer, dogs, cats and other creatures

The onset of autumn brings a range of new challenges to drivers - from driving in bad weather to dealing with the dreaded fogged-up windows.

It  also brings an increased risk of collisions with animals, in particular deer.

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According to the British Deer Society, October to December represents the peak period for collisions between motorists and deer, with upwards of 40,000 deer killed or injured every year.

The shorter daylight hours also increase the risk of not spotting other wild and domestic animals until it is too late to avoid a collision.

The law on reporting collisions varies depending on the animal involved The law on reporting collisions varies depending on the animal involved
The law on reporting collisions varies depending on the animal involved | Shutterstock

Hitting an animal with your car is not a nice feeling but beyond the initial shock there are certain safety and legal implications you need to think about, which we’ve outlined below.

Do you have to report hitting an animal to police?

Under the Road Traffic Act (1988), you must report to police any collision with certain types of animal. This includes dogs, horses, cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, donkeys and mules.

However, you don’t legally have to report accidents involving other animals such as cats, badgers and foxes.

Strangely, deer also aren’t on that list, despite the fact that thousands are involved in collisions with cars every year.

What to do if you hit an animal on the road

If you do hit an animal you should stop - if it’s safe to do so - and check the animal. Be careful when approaching it as an injured animal is likely to be frightened and may try to attack you.

If it’s dead there’s not much more you can do but if it’s only injured call the RSPCA (0300 1234 999); SSPCA (03000 999 999) or USPCA (028 3025 1000) to report it.

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The RSPCA website has advice on dealing with an injured wild animal but with larger wild animals such as deer, badgers and foxes, you should not try to approach the animal.

With any dead animal, if it’s causing an obstruction on the road and you can’t safely remove it, you should report it to the local council or police straight away to avoid it causing any further accidents. This is particularly important with deer as even a dead one can cause serious damage to a car.

As well as informing the police, if you hit someone’s pet, such as a cat or dog, you may want to try and let the owner know. Check if the animal has a collar or tag with contact details on it.

Once you’ve dealt with the animal casualty you should also check over your car. Hitting even something as small as a dog could potentially damage your car. If your car is damaged it should be covered by insurance, although you’re likely to lose your no claims bonus.

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