Skip to content

What to Do When You See an Injured Animal from Your Car

July 24, 2010

Turtle-crossing photo by Flickr user jvree

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.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. July 24, 2010 3:46 pm

    Great post, thank you for the information and the perspective.

    I’ll add this, for those of you in areas where there are cranes, egrets, and similar long-billed birds: toss a blanket (jacket, towel, whatever) over them FIRST on approaching, and then wrap him/her in it. Those beaks can do some damage. :/

  2. July 24, 2010 5:20 pm

    Stephanie, since you linked to Mark’s post I need not retell my story here… But because the picture you chose has a turtle caution photo and because your message gets into “why” we *should* stop, I can’t help but add what else happened on that day…

    As I was reaching for the towel in my car, a very frail young man in a wheel chair came over — He had watched the whole “rescue” from the side of the road. In a few brief sentences we both assessed the heavy, speeding traffic, the people who wouldn’t/didn’t stop, and the possible chance of the turtle’s recovery… In the next few comments I learned that the man had been a victim of a pedestrian car accident himself. What was left of his body was held together with pins… By this time I had the turtle secure and closed my hood. The man saw my vegan and animal rights stickers, and said “I love animals too”. With time being urgent I gave him a pamphlet and said simply “maybe this will show you how you can love them more”…

    He smiled and nodded like he knew our meeting had a deeper significance than what was apparent on the surface. And as I drove off it felt like the three of us were all connected in a kind of universe that we *should* be in all the time. I learned so much about compassion that day. Here this crippled, wronged man had it in him to stop and do what he could… To offer aid to someone who was offering aid. To experience and witness the troubles in this little turtle’s life… To be kind to someone who was also trying to be kind…

    Many could learn a lesson from this man in the wheelchair – He really was more “whole” than the lot of people who seem to be. And against the odds, he certainly was the kind of person we all “should” be.

    It felt incomplete not telling the whole story of the sad turtle who is no more… Thanks for giving me the opportunity to do so here.

    • July 25, 2010 1:50 pm

      Thank you, Bea, not only for stopping but also for sharing this story and for respecting and engaging an already compassionate person, giving him a chance to expand his compassion even more. That’s wonderful.

    • July 25, 2010 6:47 pm

      Just seconding Stephanie. Thank you, Bea.

      • July 26, 2010 4:32 pm

        No need to thank – I’ve had great teachers in all of you… And for that I am grateful. <3

  3. July 24, 2010 6:48 pm

    Even for animals that appear to be dead one should still pull over and try to help, I’ve passed two carcasses before just by chance and the dogs were actually alive. Needless to say, at the time I was completely unprepared.

  4. July 24, 2010 10:32 pm

    Even for the dead which really are dead, if possible try to get them off the road and you’ll probably be saving other animals from injury or death as a result.

    I’m reading an advance copy of Mariposa Road by Robert Michael Pyle about a year spent traveling around the US looking for butterflies and he writes about hating this aspect of any road trip and some related experiences.

    So far in Yellowstone this season, two bears have been killed by hit and run drivers. Overall it’s a tie with 4 dead bears and 4 dead humans.

  5. July 25, 2010 1:52 pm

    @Jimmy and greentangle: Definitely important points. Thank you for offering them. I’ll be adding all these smart suggestions to the post itself.

  6. Mike permalink
    June 25, 2012 11:31 pm

    I passed a turtle that was on the dividing line on a rural highway, and my conscience made me pull over and carry him/her into the ditch. It was tricky picking him up because he used his legs to scratch at my fingers. I felt good about helping this turtle from getting run over.

  7. July 24, 2013 5:44 pm

    Thanks to my father who stated to me on the topic of this webpage, this website is actually remarkable.

  8. September 30, 2013 3:56 am

    Heya i am foor the first time here. I found this board and I find
    It really useful & it helped me outt a lot.I hope to give something back and help others like you aidfed me.

  9. April 4, 2014 2:18 am

    Wonderful blog! I fiund it while browsing on Yahoo News.
    Do yyou have any suyggestions on hhow too get listed in Yahhoo
    News? I’ve been trying forr a whjle but I never seem tto geet there!
    Appreciuate it

  10. 'adIconUrl'/ permalink
    June 9, 2014 7:35 am

    Hi colleagues, iits fantastic paragraph on thhe
    topic off eachingand fullly defined, keepp it up alll the time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 95 other followers

%d bloggers like this: