What should I do if I accidentally hit an animal while I'm driving?
If you hit an animal or see an animal that is injured, the first thing to remember is to protect yourself. Never risk your life. If the traffic is heavy and you cannot stop without endangering your life, keep going and call for help as soon as you can get to a telephone.Hitting an animal is sometimes unavoidable; try not to feel guilty. It is better to hit the animal than to stop suddenly and get rear-ended or to swerve and hit another car.
If you can stop, try to position your car in front of the animal to protect it from being hit again. Turn on your flashers. If there is a phone nearby, call your local animal control agency or have a bystander call for you.
While waiting you can try to assess the animal's injury. The only time that I would suggest touching or handling a stray animal is when it is bleeding severely.
A dog may be muzzled by tying a length of soft material such as a nylon stocking or a cloth belt around the nose and fastening it behind the head. A sheet, handkerchief or towel can be used to stop the bleeding. Apply pressure directly to the wound for 15-20 minutes or however long it takes to stop the bleeding.
Never use a tourniquet. Adequate amounts of pressure applied long enough will stop the bleeding. Once the bleeding has stopped, apply a pressure bandage.
Keep an eye on the animal. Remember that dogs perspire through their mouth. Using a muzzle can be deadly, especially in the summer.
It is best to keep the animal warm to combat shock. Cover the animal with a blanket, quilt or old coat. The blanket can also help protect you from injury from a frightened animal if you cover its head. Make sure the animal is able to breathe properly.
If there is bleeding, external or internal, excitement and agitation can increase it, so keep the animal as calm and quiet as you can.
If you take it upon yourself to bring the animal to a veterinarian, you will be responsible for the cost of treatment. If you wait for Animal Control, it become's that agency's responsibility.
Salt Lake County Animal Control will provide emergency veterinarian care for an animal that is wearing a current license tag. If there is no license, or if it is untraceable, the officer will have to assess the injury and either bring the animal to the shelter for observation or euthanize it.
A final word about injured animals: Make sure that the animal struck by a car will not be yours by keeping your pets controlled at all times, in a fenced yard or leashed. Studies show that cats allowed to roam outside have about half the lifespan of indoor cats.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding animal health or welfare, contact the Salt Lake County Animal Services Humane Education Department, 264-2247.