New awareness day hopes to change views of cats killed on the road

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30 September 2020
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Campaign group, CatsMatter have created the very first 'World Animal Road Accident Awareness Day' taking place on October 10, 2020. The day aims to commemorate the fallen, and raise awareness to try and limit incidents. We spoke to Carlie Power at CatsMatter about what it is they stand for, and how you can get involved with the day.

Q) What is CatsMatter all about?

A) CatsMatter aims to raise awareness of cats on our roads, as well as to challenge the lack of legislation protecting them. Currently in the UK, if you hit a cat when driving, there is no legal requirement that the driver must stop, help and/or report the incident. Cats are the only protected non-caged domestic animal included in the Animal Welfare Act 2006, that have no protections on our roads. With 10.9 million cats in the UK, compared to 9.9 million dogs (PDSA Paw report), they are the most popular pet in Britain, and we feel it is time they had protections on par with their canine counterparts.

Cats are family, and don’t deserve to be left in the road scared, alone, in pain, or worse. We feel they are worthy of a chance at survival should the worst happen and see no reason why this can’t be achieved in our so-called animal loving nation. We aim to encourage legislation change to include the welfare of cats on our road network so that the law reflects the importance they play in the lives of many people and their invaluable worth in todays society.

It’s not just the initial incident that matters for us either, it’s also the aftermath. When a driver leaves a cat in the road, the local council tends to collect the remains. We have battled hard to ensure that councils scan collected cats for microchips and, where possible, notify the owner and allow them a chance to retrieve their cat. It’s been an uphill battle but we’ve managed to get almost 60 councils on board who now scan cats and return them to their owners, including making Wales the first all-scanning nation in the world and receiving unanimous support from a London Assembly motion to change the way our Capitol operates. Scanning is important because owners need that closure and the chance to say goodbye properly. Cats deserve dignity in death and those who love them deserve to be treated with a little sympathy and respect. To make reporting and scanning a success, the gel that will bind the success is microchipping. After working with DEFRA and Rehman Chishti MP on the ‘Cats Bill’, we are proud to say we have been heavily involved in the upcoming mandatory microchipping of cat’s legislation. Working with DEFRA officials though the research currently being undertaken for the microchip legislation has also ensured that we have cemented the issue of scanning by local authorities also being conducted within this research.

Cats are a massive part of millions of peoples lives around the UK. Much more than a pet, they are family. Cats are companions who play a crucial role in many of our daily lives, and they have now more than earnt their right to be viewed as more than mere vermin in the eyes of the law. CatsMatter aims to change the mind-set that they are ‘just a cat’ and challenge outdated laws. No longer are cat people a misunderstood and stereotyped bunch, we are now a loud majority demanding the change that these precious felines deserve.

Q) How did CatsMatter start?

A) Sadly, we have all lost cats to the road, and the drivers did not stop in any of our cat’s incidents. Upon learning this injustice for cats is perfectly legal in British law, we decided we had to try and do something about it and try and front the change we want to see. What we also found was, there was very little guidance out there helping people understand what to do if they hit a cat, nor was there any central point for people to get help, advice or just generally speak to likeminded people about their experience and grief. We have found that there are many people out there who do want to help if they hit or find a cat in the road, they simply just don’t know how to.

Therefore, raising awareness and getting helpful information out there is just as crucial in the fight to save lives as any law change would be, arguably more so. We used our own grief to try to fill an evident void in hope of making a difference for others who will sadly go through the same as we did. Beyond the militant campaigning and advice we have fiercely tried to pumped out, we have also created a space where people can get the emotional support they need, and this has been very important to us. We speak to people everyday who are finding themselves in the same situation as we were many years ago, and we are so proud that we can offer what no one ever could to us back then. As heartbroken as we were to lose our beloved cats, we have now found peace in that they did not die in vain, and their loss has gone on to create something positive which helps other cats and their owners.

Q) What is Animal Road Accident Awareness Day all about?

A) World Animal Road Accident Awareness Day aims to commemorate the fallen, and raise awareness to try and limit incidents. We hope to do this through the promotion of safe driving and education to enlighten people on what they can do to help if they find themselves in the position of having hit an animal when driving. 70 million animals are estimated to die on UK roads every single year, which is the equivalent to more than the entire human UK population losing their lives to cars year in, year out. 

We hope World Animal Road Accident Awareness Day will shine a spotlight on an issue which many drivers, and pet owners, will sadly have firsthand experience in. In some cases, these animals will have been left purely because the driver didn’t feel their little lives were important enough to stop and try to help, but in other cases it will simply boil down to the driver didn’t know what to do. We want to use our awareness day as an opportunity to get that information out there so people are aware of their options and how they can help, and all it will cost them is a small fraction of their time. Life is always worth much more than just a few moments of our time. 

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Accidents will always sadly happen, but there should be no excuse for fleeing the scene. It would not be normal to see human remains all up the M6, and it shouldn’t be normal to see dead animals all up a stretch of motorway either. We are all aware of what to do if we were involved in a road accident, or were witness to one, and we would like some degree of knowledge amongst drivers of what they can and should do if it happens to an animal. The resources are out there to help, and we hope to the awareness day will go some way in normalizing a sympathetic and proactive response to incidents involving animals among drivers.

Q) How can I get involved in the day?

A) There are a few ways in which people can get involved in World Animal Rod Accident Awareness Day. The most important way is simply to browse through the information and familiarise themselves with how they can help if they ever encounter an injured animal in the road. The ways in which domestic pets and wildlife can be treated to ensure the very best chance of survival can vary slightly, which is why we teamed up with the Starlight Trust who specialize in wildlife rescue.

We recently completed a blog using our combined knowledge and experience to offer drivers and animals the best chance of a successful outcome for all. Included in this blog is also other ways people can help to combat the rise in animal deaths on the roads. This could be something as simple as logging when and where they have spotted a deceased animal on the road through online forms such as the one mentioned in the article from UK organization ‘Project Splatter’. Simply doing so will allow conservationists to know where the hotspots are so they know which areas to target for things such as animal warning road signs, wildlife crossings, or other targeted prevention measures to help lower fatalities in these areas. We would also ask they share such information with their friends and family to help educate as many people as possible. By doing this, people will be empowered to help should they ever find themselves in this position. 

Readers can help us by contacting their local MP asking if they would support the awareness day and help get the message out their to their constituents. This will also help put pressure on the authorities to act and ensure this topic stays at the top of the political agenda. Only then will we see the change that is needed, and people can play an especially important part in making that happen.

Q) What should I do if I hit a cat?

A) We’d like people to think ‘Stop! Help! Report it’.

Firstly, drivers should stop as soon as is safe to do so and try to help the cat. If the cat is alive, they will need to a veterinarian straight away, and drivers will not incur any costs for doing so. Vets are obliged by law to administer pain relief and make the cat comfortable, in which time an owner can be located through their microchip to proceed with any further treatment needed. Care should be taken when lifting and transporting the cat, so as not to complicate any potential internal injuries. This can be done by simply by using a board of some kind, or even a jacket held taught which will act as a makeshift stretcher. If this is not possible, lift them with one hand under their hind legs and the other around their chest, making sure to keep the body as level as possible.

If the cat is sadly deceased, a vet will still accept the body and will scan for a microchip and notify the owners of their pet’s unfortunate fate. Some people may encounter a problem taking the cat to a vets, in situations such as out of hours, or perhaps the cat ran off, but we would like people to know there are still a number of options people can try. Knocking on surrounding houses is likely to find details of where the cat lives, and the family can then retrieve their cat or understand what has happened and put together a search party to find them. If this is not possible, there are organizations such as Scan Angels, who can attend the scene to check for a chip. There are out of hours veterinary practices where cats can be taken out of hours, but another option could be to retain the cat’s body until normal practice hours. This can be done by simply placing the cat in a box/bag/coat until morning, but drivers must be conscious not to leave the cat anywhere where it might be confused for rubbish, such as a box or plastic bag, and ensure the cat is safe from wildlife.

We just simply want drivers to know that cats do matter, and they should be conscious of the pain such a small creature can go through when hit at speed by such a large vehicle, but also know that they play a crucial role in limiting their pain and suffering simply by stopping to help. Not only that, but there will be a family somewhere who will be counting on them to do the right thing in either saving their beloved pet, or at least giving them the opportunity to say goodbye and have closure. Even for those drivers who care very little for cats and don’t appreciate their worth, we ask they place themselves in a position where they were counting on someone to save something they care deeply about, and act how they would want that person to act for them.

For more information and lots of useful advice, visit www.catsmatter.org