Numerous Bills have been presented to Parliament in previous years, each asking for an amendment to the Road Traffic Act - all failed quite miserably unfortunatly. There's a simple reason why - the animals on the Road Traffic Act are restrained animals. For cats to be included alongside them, their right of roam would have to be jeopardised so the same rules and regulations are applied to all the included animals on the Act. Some people would be quite happy with cats loosing their right to roam, however this particular law goes much deeper than that. The Road Traffic Act is not designed to protect the animals on it, to the contrary actually. The act is designed to place liability on the owner for allowing a restrained/tethered animal to cause danger to traffic and endangering human life. Should the police be called regarding a dog hit by a car, it's quite likely the owner will face a fine as the dog should not be 'in the cars way' in the first place. Even worse, no veterinary treatment is given. Should a dog be hit by a car and still be alive, the police will likely take the dog to the local pound. Owners will be confronted as to why their dog was free roaming, and they will have to pay the pound fee for the animals duration. It is not compulsory pounds scan dogs, nor councils should they collect a deceased dog from the road. Most likely the dog will be disposed of in the same way cats are by some local authorities - in the local landfill site.
This all seemed to complicate Bills going forward giving cats the same status as dogs on our roads, and it seemed there were 2 options. 1) Take away a cats right of free roam or 2) Drop the subject. We refused to chose either option and created a 3rd. CatsMatter drafting alternative law proposals to protect cats on our roads is no secret, although we have not shared any details publically to date. We have been waiting for the right person to come along to share everything with, someone dedicated who could help make it happen and who wants this (almost) as much as we do!
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, Animals Lost and Found in Kent founders, Dee and Natasha, were taking part in the Pride of Britain and the Pride Of Medway. As a result, their local MP wanted to pop along and see what they did. The girls took that opportunity to point out the importance of microchipping and how many RTA victims never get to go home because no owner could be located. The girls clearly work tirelessly to help reunite cats with owners , and know the importance of getting closure due to sadly losing their own to the roads also. Amazingly, their MP agreed to try and help do something about the situation in the form of running a marathon to help raise funds for the charity, and present a private members Bill on the issue.
On the 23rd July 2018 Rehman Chishti MP presented a Bill to the house: https://services.parliament.uk/Bills/2017-19/cats.html
The Bill asks that motorists be required to report road collisions involving cats, and also that cat owners are to ensure their cats are microchipped.
Since slightly before the first presentation back in July, we have been working with Rehman's dedicated team on potential content and of course sent our draft proposals. Our submissions included supporting evidence from current British legislation plus examples from around the world where it currently already is a legal requirement to stop and report it if you hit a cat.
However, what we were not quite prepared for was the inclusion of mandatory microchipping. Although naturally we support the idea of course, all our work has been on the issue of RTAs and scanning, so over the last couple of months we have been working hard towards gathering as much evidence as we could for Rehman's team in hope of helping wherever we could, plus other charities have been supporting and helping with this also.
Rehman, and his team, have been firmly dedicated to gathering as much information as possible so as the best case can be presented and we are truly honoured to be part of it.
On 5th September, we headed to Parliament to meet Rehman and discuss things further. He had some brilliant ideas on how to take the bill forward, and we are pleased he was impressed with ours too. One particular piece of evidence we provided was of particular interest and, if that is included in the final documents as is currently thought will be, we will be over the moon!
We have a good idea of the content Rehman plans to include, but he still has a lot of information to gather up and go through. We are confident the best man for the job is on the case, and we look forward to the final document, of which should be available to view on his private members bill on the government website in the near future before the second hearing which is scheduled for 26th October.
We are heading to London next week to meet again with Rehman, followed by a meeting at a later date with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove.
What's more, Rehman briefly spoke to co-founder Mandy about a few issues surrounding cats welfare, and he was interested to learn about the issue of local authorities not always scanning cats found and notifying the owners either. It's quite possible he will look further in to this at a later date...
CatsMatter are extremely encouraged by Rehman's dedication to this Bill, and the welfare of cats overall, and we look forward to what the future holds for cats rights on our roads thanks to Rehman firmly putting this issue on the political agenda. We also want to note how wonderful it has been to work with so many other charities on this, and all be working as 1 huge team for the sake of our cats. Together we have no doubt Rehman can make this happen with all of our support behind him!
CatsMatter's Mandy visited the Blue Cross Animal Hospital along with Rehman Chishti MP. The team hosted a fantastic visit where we got to see first-hand the amazing work staff at the London Victoria branch do for animals.
HUGE thank you to the Blue Cross team for the warm welcome they gave us, and of course to Rehman for his sheer dedication to the welfare of cats with his private members Bill.