New laws could mean drivers face massive fine for running over cats

Cats are considered as 'free roaming animals', so are governed by different laws than dogs. (Getty)

Motorists who run over cats and don’t report it could face a fine of up to £20,000.

Under current laws, although any driver who hits a dog is legally bound to report it, the same doesn’t apply for cats - even if the accident is fatal.

But a new law being proposed could change all that.

Rehman Chishti, MP for Gillingham and Rainham, wants people to think twice about leaving felines on the side of the road.

A new ‘Cats Bill’ would mean drivers would be legally obliged to inform a local vet if they hit a cat and could fined up to £20,000 if they don’t report it. The bill also requires all cats to be microchipped.

Campaign group Cats Matter, who support the bill, estimate that 230,000 cats are left to die "slowly and painfully" at roadside each year in the UK.

This means roughly one cat is struck every 2.5 minutes.

Rehman Chishti and Mandy Lowe have been working together to bring this law to life. (Mandy Lowe)

Mandy Lowe, co-founder of Cats Matter, told Yahoo News UK: “Cats that have been hit often are in critical condition and so the quicker they are seen by a vet, the better.

“A fine is one of those things we have pushed for hardest, simply so there is a comeuppance ensuring drivers think twice about leaving them in the road.

“We figure if people can't do the right thing out of compassion for an animal, they will with the threat of financial burden.

“Originally Rehman had suggested the reports go to the police, but that would be impractical as they don’t have enough resources to be called out every 2.5 minutes, so we believe calling vets would be more feasible.

“Offences under the Animal Welfare Act can see offenders pay up to £20,000 or jail time, and we want this legislation to come under that.

“We have had backing from Michael Gove and Sue Hayman, who has even put this into the Labour party manifesto.

“This may be one thing Tories and Labour agree on.”

Mandy and Rehman at Blue Cross Victoria, who have pledged to back the Cats Bill. Staff explain that the victim has a broken jaw, the most common injury. (Mandy Lowe)

Mandy, whose own cat was stuck and killed by a car, said the requirement for cat owners to microchip their pets would ensure they could be contacted easily.

The legislation also has the backing of Cats Protections, the UK’s leading cat welfare charity.

Cats Protection’s Head of Advocacy & Government Relations, Jacqui Cuff, said: “We’d always urge anyone who injures a cat while driving to take the cat to a vet for emergency treatment if injured or report it to the their local authority cleansing department if it’s a fatality.

“However, we believe that this needs to work in conjunction with compulsory microchipping of all owned cats.

“This is why we’re calling for a change in the law to ensure that all owned cats, like dogs, are microchipped.

“Across the UK, 32% of cats are not microchipped so we’ll continue to call on politicians to ensure changes in the law to improve feline welfare.”

Mandy added: “With regards to who foots the vet bill, we have to be completely fair and surprisingly owners we have spoken to do support paying it.

“Owners of all free roaming animals must accept some responsibility and acknowledge accidents can unfortunately happen.

“Should their cat be accidentally hit, and a driver takes them to a veterinary practice, we expect the registered owner to be liable and cover costs.

“A large number of vets operate out of hours so the legislation would still apply.

“All the fine detail will get discussed down the line during a consultation, and once the law comes in, we would like to continue improving it as there’s bound to be flaws somewhere.”