Say No to Adding Cats to the Road Traffic Act
Updated: Dec 9, 2019
It's estimated that over 200,000 cats are killed on our roads every year. That staggering figure is a worry for every UK cat owner- around 8 million of them. But why is this figure so high? And what can be done to give felines a fighting chance when the worst happens?
The danger for cats
Domestic cats are famously independent creatures by nature and many cat owners are happy for their cats to freely wander the neighbourhood. While this is common and perfectly normal, it puts many cats at risk on our roads.
Comparatively, dogs are usually kept on safely leads guided by their owners, meaning they are much less likely to be involved in a road accident.
There isn't always a helpful human on hand to bring cats back to the kerb when there's danger, meaning cats are extremely vulnerable and often at the mercy of oncoming cars.
A change in the law
Recently, some concerned cat owners have been calling for a change in road safety law: a change that would include cats in the Road Traffic Act. The act includes a clause which makes it a legal requirement for a person to report to the police if they have struck an animal while driving. The law covers dogs, horses, cows and many others- but not cats.
The act also makes it an offence to walk your dog along a road without a lead. This is why including cats in the Road Traffic Act is not the solution. Taking the freedom of cats and their owners is not a feasible option for law enforcement. The law is innately flawed when applied to cats and their owners and is not the key to solving the problem for cats on our roads.
A common misunderstanding is that the Road Traffic Act is about protecting animals - it is not. This section of law is aimed at establishing liability when an animal is hit, not saving the lives of pets or getting closure and justice for owners.
Left alone to die
There is no law in place that holds people responsible when they hit a cat while driving, so it is often the case that people don't feel obliged to stop and report it. This means that, not only will owners not be informed, a struck cat won't receive the emergency care it might need to give it a chance of survival.
Many cats are left to suffer and die slowly until they are eventually found or reported to the council. It is also not uncommon for the council to remove the body of a cat and not inform its owners. Councils are under no legal obligation to scan cats for microchips, so many owners are forever left wondering about the fate of their feline.
As there is no clause in the Road Traffic Act about identifying struck animals, councils are not required to scan for a microchip- even if it means reuniting the body of an animal with its, no doubt, distraught owner.
So, what can be done?
Petitions aimed to increase road safety for cats have come and gone, to the frustration of many aggrieved cat owners. CatsMatter are an organisation which has been campaigning to improve road safety for cats for several years.
Their ultimate aim is to educate drivers, cat owners and lobby councils and MPs to push a law through to protect the lives of cats on the roads. They're hoping to one day make it illegal for drivers to hit a cat without stopping and reporting the accident. They're also calling for it to become mandatory for councils to scan every cat that's found and notify the owners.
CatsMatter already have the likes of the PDSA, Cats Protection and Vets4Pets on board and so far, over 20 local authorities have pledged to scan all cats involved in road accidents. This is all thanks to their relentless campaigning efforts.
They have also drafted a law aimed at protecting cats on the road, while taking into account their unique nature and freedoms.
Cats have a place in millions of homes across the UK. Perhaps it is time we put our best paw forwards to get the best safety and justice for our feline friends.