Feline hit-and-runs could soon become a thing of the past if a new law were to be introduced, says the UK’s leading road safety charity, IAM RoadSmart. The new law would mandate motorists that run over a cat on Britain’s roads to stop, report the incident to the police and seek help from a vet.
Currently, under the Road Traffic Act (1988), drivers are required to report collisions involving animals such as dogs, horses, pigs and sheep – cats are not protected under the same regulations, and collisions do not need to be reported. IAM RoadSmart supports parity of treatment for cats, by ensuring that they are also recognised under legislation.
IAM RoadSmart’s plea comes in the wake of MPs also speaking in support of the appeal at a Petitions Committee debate on 9 January, which was prompted after an e-petition amassed 102,436 signatures. During the debate, transport minister Richard Holden acknowledged the “heartbreak caused by the loss of pets”.
The charity, Cats Protection, estimates that there are 11 million owned cats in the UK, with just over one in four households (26 per cent) owning a cat.
But tragically, a 2022 UK Parliament motion heard that approximately 230,000 cats are hit by cars every year, averaging 630 every day. The research, conducted by insurers PetPlan, also claimed that kittens are most at risk, with half of all cats hit by vehicles being aged between seven months and two years.
IAM RoadSmart supports the proposed regulation changes as it could help keep all road users, as well as cats, safer on UK roads. Neil Greig, Director of Policy and Research at IAM RoadSmart, commented: “Drivers are required by law to stop and report incidents where they have hit a dog, and we have witnessed cars either drive slow and with extreme caution, or stop, when a dog has run loose into the road. However, the same level of care is rarely observed when a cat runs out – perhaps because the driver knows that, legally, they do not have to stop.”
“But if a law requiring drivers to stop if they hit a cat were to be brought in, we believe it could strengthen driver vigilance and responsibility overall – meaning the benefits of the legislation will stretch far beyond the protection of cats.”
Mandy Hobbis, Co-Founder of Cats Matter, the feline road traffic accident group, added: “Updating this law simply boils down to minimising suffering and saving cats’ lives. Thankfully, many drivers already do the right thing and stop their vehicle to tend to a cat they have run over, regardless of the legislation being in place. However, there are also drivers who sadly need the threat of punishment to act in such circumstances.
“It simply can’t be right that drivers can hit a cat and legally leave them alone, scared, or worse, left to die. Like dogs, cats are loved members of the family for millions of households up and down the country, so we see no reason why sad instances of the nation’s beloved cats being run over on the road should not be treated in the same way.”