What to Do When You See an Injured Animal from Your Car
A few days ago, Mark Hawthorne wrote a post on a topic that gets me riled up — the act of (knowingly) hitting an animal with a car and then driving on or of passing an animal clearly suffering on the side of the road. I’ll get to that in a moment, but first, Mark did the loving, compassionate thing and also provided a list of tips for the rest of us, on what to do when we come across an injured animal and what to always have on hand in our vehicles:
- Know the locations and phone numbers of your local pet hospital and wildlife-rescue center.
- Keep a cardboard box with air holes (like this one) in your vehicle, as well as thick gloves and a large towel.
- Carry these items with you as you move toward the animal.
- When approaching an injured animal, move slowly and quietly; resist the urge to speak to him.
- Wearing gloves, gently lift the animal unto the towel and place him into the box and close the lid. If he won’t fit into the box, wrap him in the towel and cover his eyes.
- Back in your vehicle, keep the radio off. If it’s cold outside, leave the heater on. Don’t speak to the animal.
- Note the location where you found him. If he can be rehabilitated and released, this will help rehabilitators return him to his home territory.
There are several more recommendations for what you may want to include in the rescue kit you keep in your car here (ignoring that this resource seems concerned solely with “pets”), including flashlight, water, bowls, bandanas (e.g., for tourniquets), flares to place around your vehicle if you see an animal at night and have to pull over in the dark, and a plastic tarp to place over your car seat (underneath the towel or blanket on which the animal may be directly lying, if not in a box).
I have a few personal stories here. And I told the short, detached version of the most traumatic one without crying for the first time this past week, but now I can’t even start to summarize it without sobbing, so I’m not going to put myself through the retelling. I’ll just reiterate Mark’s point that some of the animals whom we see on the sides of roads every day, whether possums or cats or raccoons or dogs or deer, are still alive, suffering tremendously. And we should ask why it is acceptable — or legal — for us to leave them there or zoom past them. Most people will concede that animals can suffer. Even most of those people who are ignorant (willfully or not) about what happens to the animals whose bodies and eggs and fluids they eat, for example — who convince themselves that slaughter is or even can be “humane” — at least acknowledge that animals are capable of suffering pain like we do, at least acknowledge that it is wrong to make or let animals suffer, even if they fail to recognize that they are funding and endorsing horrendous violence and suffering every day.
So one would think that we as a society would at least require of each other that we stop and try to help individual animals when faced so directly with their suffering. Can you imagine the terror in addition to pain that an animal must feel, as cars and trucks speed and blare by, while she lies there in agony from and immobilized by her injuries? Imagine the pain, fear, and desperation any of us would feel while lying there helpless. When I broached this topic with someone (outside AR) a couple years ago, angrily announcing that it should be illegal to hit an animal and just keep going, she dismissed me — told me I was taking things too far, that this was an extreme notion, which is the same response I imagine many would give without first thinking things through from the animals’ perspective. But it’s not remotely “too far”; stopping to aid or call for aid for an animal we have injured is just basic decency.
There should have been someone Mark could call from the side of the road; there should be a number we can call, agencies that will reliably come out and help, immediately. We should all feel like it is our duty to stop. Leaving the animal there to die a slow, horrible death shouldn’t be our default solution.
And I’ll add one more item to Mark’s list. If you see someone else pulling over or already parked on the side of the road to help an animal, pull off in a safe manner and see if you can help — the animal and the person who may need help providing that help.
Finally, I’d like to share another link, to a post Mary wrote in 2008, about her experience trying to rescue a duck after witnessing someone hit the animal; there is much to be sad and frustrated about throughout Mary’s story, much that may be familiar to others who’ve tried to engage in roadside rescues, but the end is something touching.