Is It Illegal To Hit A Dog And Drive Off?

Is It Illegal To Hit A Dog And Drive Off?
Calendar icon August 16, 2023

Getting into a car accident is stressful. When that accident causes injury to or the death of a dog, it can be especially traumatic for many drivers. In a moment of panic, you may become scared and drive off, leaving the animal behind. However, doing so can land you in serious legal trouble.

Is It Illegal To Hit A Dog And Drive Off?

New York Laws Covering Hitting a Dog With Your Car

It is illegal to hit an animal and leave it wounded or dead in New York. New York Vehicle and Traffic Law § 601 (Leaving the Scene of Injury to Certain Animals) states that you must notify the pet’s owner, a custodian, a police officer, or an appropriate community member about the incident. This law applies to dogs, cats, horses, and animals identified as cattle.

When you provide a notification, you must supply the following information:

  • Your name and address
  • Your NYS driver’s license number
  • Proof of car insurance, including your policy number and its expiration date

This statute also requires you to disclose whether you were acting in certain capacities, such as operating as a ride-share driver. It is imperative that you are honest about the situation and any possible contributing factors. Finally, you must also try to assist any injured animal or get them to appropriate medical care.

Consequences of Hitting a Dog

There are several types of consequences to hitting a dog. First, you will likely cause injury to someone’s pet or livestock. These animals are widely considered personal property, and the law could hold you responsible for those damages. This is true even if you tried unsuccessfully to stop or otherwise avoid a dog that ran out in front of your car.

You could be personally liable for those injuries as well as the emotional suffering caused to the pet’s owner. If you choose to drive away, you may also face additional legal consequences, including a possible arrest if witnesses provide identifying information to the police.

Failing to stop and report hitting an animal with your car can result in a fine of up to $100 for a first offense and between $50 and $100 for a second offense. This amount increases to $50 to $150 for a first offense and $150 to $300 for subsequent offenses if the animal is a service or guide dog who is assisting its handler at the time of the accident.

You may also damage your own vehicle, which likely necessitates filing a police report. New York Law states you must file a DMV form MV-104) within 10 days of any motor vehicle accident that causes any injury to a person or more than $1,000 in property damage. Your insurance carrier may request this form to process any related claims.

What To Do if You Hit a Dog

If you accidentally strike a dog with your vehicle in New York, you must follow established procedures. These include:

  • Stopping and providing medical assistance to the injured animal 
  • Using the information on a tag or collar to notify the pet’s owner when possible
  • Notifying another responsible party, such as a peace officer or community member, when you are unable to identify or reach the owner
  • Providing the required information during the notification
  • Filing a police report if damages exceed $1,000
  • Notifying your insurance carrier if appropriate

Once you move the animal to a safe area and you have filed all the required forms and notifications, it is also a good idea to speak with an accident attorney to discuss your next steps. An experienced car accident lawyer can walk you through what to do next.

Responsibilities of Pet Owners

Drivers are responsible for reporting an accident involving an animal, but pet owners also have responsibilities. For example, they are expected to keep pets under a reasonable amount of control in public. This generally means tethered with an appropriate leash.

Dog owners who violate leash laws run the risk of having their pets run out into traffic. Therefore, they share some of the blame for the accident. This is important if you have to file an insurance claim for damages to your car. It is also another excellent reason to stop and attempt to assist an injured animal.

When you stop, you are following applicable laws by rendering aid to the injured animal. It puts responsibility for many types of damages squarely onto the pet owner who let her dog loose. On the other hand, if you leave, you are breaking the law and may end up bearing some of the responsibility.

Benefits of Talking to an Accident Lawyer

The pet and its owner are not the only ones who incur damages. Striking an animal can cause serious damage to a vehicle. In that case, you may need to contact your insurance company to file a claim. Unfortunately, insurance claims after hitting an animal are not always straightforward. In cases where negligence on the part of the animal’s owner causes the accident, his homeowner’s insurance may cover all or part of the damages.

Because responsibility for the damages is not always clear-cut, speaking with an attorney is usually a sound choice. At Cellino Law, our attorneys work exclusively in personal injury cases. We know the intricacies of the New York legal system and will work tirelessly to ensure you are not held responsible for someone else’s actions.

Hiring an accident attorney after hitting a dog provides an advantage when negotiating with insurance companies. After all, they have lawyers fighting on their side, and so should you. Additionally, your attorney will investigate your accident to determine who was responsible. This may include speaking to witnesses and securing and reviewing pictures or video of the accident if necessary.

Get the Legal Support You Need

If you hit a dog with your car, whether you drive off or stay and attempt to care for it, you do not have to face the legal consequences on your own. Our attorneys at Cellino Law will explain every step of the process so you understand what to do next. We have offices conveniently located throughout New York State. Contact us to schedule a free case evaluation and put our expertise in car accident litigation to work for you.

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Content checked by the personal injury attorney Ross Cellino. As a family man and a trial attorney, I pride myself on winning cases and serving the community. With over 35 years of experience, I understand the function of a jury, how juries arrive at conclusions, and the role that the jury plays in administering justice. I know how to win cases. You can find us in Manhattan, Buffalo, Melville, Rochester, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens and other locations throughout New York.

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