DEAR DIDI: I saw a Chihuahua get hit by a car a couple of weeks ago in Manteca. It has bothered me ever since then. A man appeared to have called his own dog from across the street. The little thing went running to him when called. A silver SUV tried to avoid the dog but a rear wheel ended up clipping it. The driver stopped. The dog got up and limped off to its owner. How do these things work now after the fact? I keep wondering if the poor little thing is okay. – Upset in Manteca
DEAR UPSET: Seeing an animal get hit can be horrifying! Let’s look at all angles of such a situation. The first concern is, of course, for the dog. Injuries can range from banged up, to concussions, to broken bones, ruptured abdomens, or death. You may be wondering who is responsible for the wounded animal. Ultimately, it would be the owner. If the owner cannot be found a driver is ethically and legally required to stop. Injured animals can become quite aggressive when suffering in pain. I recommend that a coat or blanket be placed on the animal and if possible, keep the dog from being hit again. When an owner is not determined the medical bills will frequently fall on the person that brought the dog into the vet. A motorist can also call the police or animal control. In your case the driver did the right thing and stopped. It sounds like an owner was identified and hopefully took their little dog to a doctor right away.
In some cases, a large dog gets loose and is hit by a car causing damage to the vehicle. The owner of the canine is typically responsible for any damages. If an owner cannot be identified then the driver’s comprehensive insurance policy should cover the expenses. I think most of us would agree that allowing a dog to run loose puts them at risk for injury, pain, trauma and possibly death.
From an insurance perspective, things get even more complicated when a driver tries to avoid hitting a dog and ends up hitting another car, runs up on a sidewalk, or worse. Another angle to this that everyone seems to overlook is the driver of the vehicle. They are the second victim in a vehicle versus dog incident. This person is minding their own business, driving to their destination, when their life is suddenly altered significantly through no fault of their own. The split second horror of impending doom is unforgettable. The guilt of causing pain and trauma to an innocent animal lingers sometimes for months or years in some people. Many drivers suffer from PTSD afterwards. I personally know a sweet woman that hit a large breed dog on the freeway in Houston, Texas. She never drove a car again and suffered from frequent nightmares reliving the accident. One of my daughter’s teachers hit a deer on a mountain road on her way to work in New York. After being discharged from a hospital the stress of driving that road to work was too much for her. She resigned and took a teaching position at a school in the city.
The bottom line … all dog owners MUST keep their dogs under control. I personally don’t care what level of obedience you THINK you have with your dog, they should not be loose in the front yard. It only takes one completely unpredictable distraction to occur that may cause your dog to get hurt.
Dierdra McElroy is a graduate of Texas A&M University and is an Animal Behaviorist specializing in canines. If you have questions or concerns about the pets in your house, you can get them answered through a future column of Didi’s Dogs. For a free consultation with Dierdra or to ask your dog behavior question, email www.CaliforniaCanineUnleashed.com.