On Tuesday, 26th May 2020 our sweet little dog, Bolt, was run over by a car. He died minutes afterwards.
We were out for our morning walk, and the dog stopped for his second poo of the walk. This time I was prepared. I had a second packet on hand because this wasn’t the first time he did his business twice in one walk.
I handed Bolt’s leash over to my 6-year-old son for a few minutes so I could duly remove the offending mess. Over the last few months, my son has proven to be very adept at walking his dog and restraining him when needs be.
What I hadn’t factored in on this particular morning, was that my son was also holding onto his bicycle.
I didn’t notice, until it was too late, that across the road, two dogs were also out for their morning walk.
Nor did I see the car coming along just at that moment.
It all happened so fast.
Bolt saw the dogs, got excited and bolted. My son couldn’t hold him (and the bike) and Bolt hit the back wheel of the car.
Guilt and Blame
In the week that followed I relived the accident over and over in my head, berating myself for taking that second packet, for taking the bicycle instead of just walking, for handing over the reins, for walking along that road instead of the Golf Course or the Beach… blamed myself for not being able to save our precious pet from his fate.
And what I’ve come to realise as I’ve moved through the stages of grief and into acceptance, is that no-one is at fault.
An accident is just that – an accident. A horrible accident.
It’s not the driver’s fault. He was not driving fast or recklessly and looked so confused at us screaming on the side of the road, I don’t think he even knew what happened.
It’s not our fault… we had our dog safely in his harness and on the leash. We were walking him on the pavement and we did our best to restrain him when he bolted.
It’s not Bolt’s fault… he was just doing what dogs do – being excited. And he died happy.
That very morning we were saying how every day is like Christmas to Bolt.
He would run around in circles of glee every morning when we opened our bedrooms door and again when made breakfast and again when picked up the leash to take him out for his walk.
And paradoxically, that day really was like Christmas for him – the day he went to meet his Maker. And we firmly believe our beautiful dog is now in Heaven and happier than ever.
So, what happens in this kind of situation?
What are your legal obligations if you run over a dog and the dog dies?
Do you need to call a car accident attorney?
Who is liable for the vet bills, cremation or burial bills when a dog dies after being hit by a car?
I did some research online and found a brilliant article about this on Pet Helpful. They got their information from the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).
Here’s what you need to know should you ever have this kind of accident.
Do NOT Hit and Run
While your first instinct might be flight in this ghastly situation, please don’t leave the scene of the accident.
The only time where a driver may be found to be at fault and may be prosecuted is if they hit and run.
Stop and pull over to the curb as soon as you can do so safely.
If You Can’t Find the Dog Owner
Check on the dog to see if it is still alive.
If the dog is still alive and needs to be moved to prevent further injury, be careful.
Proceed with Caution
When an animal is in pain or dying, they are in fight or flight mode and may become aggressive and bite anyone who tries to intervene.
I learned this the hard way. My dog adored me, yet at that moment, he lashed out and bit me.
This was one of the hardest things for me to get over during my grieving process. It felt like such a sad end to the beautiful relationship we had. I felt I had let him down and broken his trust and that he was lashing out at me in anger. I have come to learn that he was simply acting out of instinct and didn’t even know it was me who picked him up off the road. He wasn’t aware of anything after the moment of impact.
Before you move towards the dog, grab anything you can (a jacket, a towel, a blanket or gloves) to protect yourself from being bitten.
Check for an ID Tag
If the dog is wearing a collar with an identification tag, look for contact details of the owner.
If there is no collar, the vet will look for a microchip.
If there is no owner in sight, call the police or animal control (or both) so they can remove the animal safely.
Or call the owner and discuss how to proceed.
If the Dog Owner is Present
In our case, we were on the scene of the accident. Some helpful bystanders took the dog straight to our Vet down the road and they asked the driver who hit the dog to take us and follow them to the vet. But by the time we got to the Vet, Bolt had already passed away.
If you are not too emotionally distraught yourself, offer comfort and assistance to the owner of the dog. Say how sorry you are and ask if there is anything you can do to help.
This is what the driver did in our case and we are grateful. We know it was unavoidable and he is not culpable.
When to Call a Lawyer
If he had been driving recklessly or not stopped, we might have felt differently. And then we may have considered consulting a lawyer.
On the driver’s side, if we had not had our dog on a leash and his car had been damaged in the accident, he may have held us responsible and consulted a lawyer to sue for damages.
This was not even a scenario I contemplated when we had our accident. I was sensitive to the fact that the driver must be feeling awful about the accident and I asked my husband to contact him and let him know we apportioned no blame whatsoever.
But it never occurred to me, until I did this research, that the driver may have a case against us.
If you’re the driver, you won’t need an Attorney unless you were speeding, drunk, reckless or hit and run.
If you’re the dog owner, you won’t need an Attorney unless your dog was off the leash and the car was badly damaged in the accident.
Should You Sue?
Should you sue, though? Personally, I think not. Not if it’s an accident.
Here’s the thing. No-one leaves the house intending to run over a dog and no-one leaves the house intending for their dog to be run over and killed.
If you’re the driver, be sensitive to the fact that the dog owner is distraught at losing their beloved pet. You are not obligated to pay the vet bills. If you want to do so as a gesture of kindness and compassion, that’s fine. It’s not an admission of guilt and doesn’t make you culpable, it just shows you care.
If you’re the dog owner, be sensitive to the fact that the driver is also having one of the worst days of their life. Generally, you are responsible for the vet bills. It’s not the driver’s fault and they are not obligated to cover the bills.
The most comforting advice I was given when our doggie went to Heaven? (Thank You, Aunty Val)
Each pet (and each person) is only given a finite number of breaths in their lifetime. When those breaths are up, they take their leave.
I’ve also been studying a Course in Miracles and took huge comfort from the Lessons. The basic premise in A Course in Miracles is that all our fears (and trauma) stem from the fact that we believe in separation from God. We believe we are a body, when in fact we are of God. Once we understand that we are part of the Mind of God, we have the peace that passes all understanding.
Over to You
Have you ever had the misfortune to run over a dog and did the dog die? Did you feel responsible? What helped you get over it or do you still have flashbacks to the accident?
This post was sponsored by KFB Law. All opinions are my own.