NH Bill Seeks To Prevent 'Hit and Runs' With Cats, HB 1123
While New Hampshire law requires that drivers report a vehicle collision with a dog, there is no such law regarding cats. This means a driver can hit a cat and flee the scene of the accident without even the mere acknowledgment that it occurred. However, that may change thanks to HB 1123.
NH Accident Reporting Law Is Unclear And Limited When It Comes To Household Pets
The law mandates that drivers stop and report all accidents involving injury, death, or damages to property (RSA 264:25). Unfortunately, that law is not interpreted in a way that includes the injury or death of animals. Although contested by many and understandably so, household pets and domestic animals are currently considered property under the law and in practice. Such as within the criminal code and with animal cruelty cases (e.g., RSA 637:2, 644:8). However, the law mandating the reporting of accidents does not explicitly define 'property.' And whether or not the inclusion of animals was the intent, it is not being interpreted, nor enforced that way.
Likely due to that vagueness, the Legislature implemented a law that applies specifically to dogs. The law requires that a driver of any vehicle who knowingly strikes a dog must report the incident to the dog's owner or the police as soon as possible (RSA 264:31).
Unfortunately, the law does not include any other animals.
Existing Law Doesn't Reflect How Cats Are Valued By NH Residents
According to a survey conducted by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), an estimated 25.4% of US households owned cats in 2016, with the American Pet Products Association's (APPA) survey showing 38%. When combining those numbers with the US Census Bureau's household data between 2014-2018, an estimated 134,000 - 201,000 NH households had cats. According to the AVMA's survey, the average number of cats per household was 1.8, with APPA at 2.
Studies also show that cat ownership benefits human health and happiness. According to research, cats reduces stress and anxiety and help combat depression. In a 10-year study of more than 4,000 Americans, people with cats also showed a 30% lower risk of death from a heart attack. Studies additionally revealed that cats are more than two times likely to help their human companions sleep better than disturb their sleep.
Not only is the current lack of required reporting of collisions with cats inconsistent with existing law regarding personal property, but more importantly, it does not adequately reflect the significant number of NH households with cats, nor how they're valued. Under current law, a driver must report a collision with an inanimate object, but not with a cat. As sentient beings, capable of experiencing pain and fear, and who bring such companionship into our lives, cats deserve more than suffering severe injuries or dying alone in the street without any acknowledgment or efforts to help them.
HB 1123 Adds Cats To Mandatory Reporting Law
Proposed by Representative Daryl Abbas (Rockingham - Dist. 8), HB 1123 would address this issue. HB 1123 adds cats to existing law, requiring that any driver who knowingly strikes a cat, report it to the owner, or the police as soon as possible.
As initially introduced, HB 1123 also enhanced the penalty for lack of compliance of the law, from the existing violation to a misdemeanor. It additionally required the driver to wait at the scene for assistance to arrive, for no less than fifteen minutes, unless advised by law enforcement not to do so.
Unfortunately, those two enhancements received pushback from the House Transportation Committee, and the decision was made to amend the bill removing them (2020-0255h). After amended, the bill passed the committee by a vote of 18-1.
While the bill was stronger before amended, adding cats to the reporting law was the most crucial step. Such reporting could potentially alert the owner and also give authorities an increased chance of arriving in time to provide necessary assistance, prevent prolonged suffering, and save the cat's life.
Although drivers might flee the scene of an accident out of fear, the law already acknowledges that as unacceptable behavior. And while we have empathy for those involved in accidents, if someone injures a cat with their vehicle, it should be their responsibility to report it, and they should be held accountable for that.
Granted, residents can protect their cats from vehicle collisions by keeping them safe indoors. However, current law does not mandate that. Additionally, accidents do happen even in the most cautious households, and cats kept indoors sometimes find a way outside when unintended.
HB 1123 will grant cats the acknowledgment they deserve when injured by a vehicle while giving law enforcement and families the information they need to promptly help and potentially save the cat's life, or to provide those families with closure if losing their cats to tragic accidents.
Call Your House Representative
HB 1123 was passed by the House Transportation Committee with an overwhelming majority and was scheduled for a vote by the full House on February 6th. However, that vote has been rescheduled to February 13th, due to inclement weather on the 6th. You may email or call your representative(s) and kindly urge them to vote in support of the bill before the rescheduled vote. If you chose to call, please note that the phone numbers listed are often personal, so be sure to call during appropriate hours.
Double Your Impact and Protect Wildlife!
The House will also be voting on bill HB 1339 on February 13th, which poses a serious risk to NH wildlife, by removing the requirement that damage caused by wild animals must be considered 'substantial' before wounding or killing the animal.
Find your voting ward and district here.
Find your house representative(s) here.
Deadline: Wed. - Feb. 12th
Email Subject Title: Vote No on HB 1339 - Vote Yes on HB 1123
Example - *Please personalize your message:
"Hi Representative [their last name], my name is [your name], from [your town]. I'm contacting you to urge your support of HB 1123, and for you to vote no on HB 1339 along with the proposed amendment to HB 1339 (2020-0134h).
I support HB 1123, which has been added to the consent calendar for February 6th. The bill requires that drivers who knowingly strike a cat, report the incident to the owner or law enforcement as soon as possible. With the estimated hundreds of thousands of NH households having cats, I believe this law more adequately reflects the value of cats by residents.
I strongly oppose HB 1339, along with the proposed amendment to HB 1339 (2020-0134h). This bill removes the requirement that damage caused by wild animals must be considered 'substantial' before wounding or killing the animal. The need that such damage is considered 'substantial' provides an increased potential to more thoroughly consider the circumstances, the opportunity to implement humane and responsible deterrence methods, as well as the chance to avoid inadvertent harm to a non-target or protected species. Removal of that requirement poses a serious risks to our valued wildlife and prevents the use of reasonable and highly available humane deterrence methods. The NH Fish and Game testified in opposition to this bill, and I agree with their standpoint."
American Veterinary Association, 'US Pet Ownership Statistics, 2017-2018 AVMA Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook', https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/reports-statistics/us-pet-ownership-statistics
American Pet Products Associations, 'The 2017-2018 APPA National Pet Owners Survey Debut', https://www.mceldrewyoung.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/2017-2018-Pet-Survey.pdf, Last visited Feb 2020
US Census Bureau, 'QuickFacts, New Hampshire July 1, 2019 (V2019), https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/NH, Last visited Feb 2020
Susan Paretts, 'Can Stroking a Cats' Fur Relieve Stress?', The Nest, https://pets.thenest.com/can-stroking-cats-fur-relieve-stress-8220.html, Last visited Feb 2020
Dr. Ernie Ward, DVM, 'Pets Help Cure Loneliness in Seniors', Pet Health Network, http://pethealthnetwork.com/news-blogs/a-vets-life/pets-help-cure-loneliness-seniors, Last visited Feb 2020
Catharine Paddock, Ph.D., 'Cat Owners Have Lower Heart Attack Risk, Study', Medical News Today, Feb. 25, 2008, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/98432.php#1, Last visited Feb 2020
Summer M. Davenport, 'Stress Out! For Cats, Dogs, Their People, 2012, https://books.google.de/books?id=TsQSJVXt5VEC&pg=PT11&lpg=PT11&dq=half+of+people+sleep+better+with+cat+than+partner&source=bl&ots=OsJWREsocm&sig=nXwp9UyLHqshHoIWSPNiEMad4W0&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=half%20of%20people%20sleep%20better%20with%20cat%20than%20partner&f=false, Last visited Feb 2020
Lois E. Krahn, MD, Diane Tovar, RCP, Bernie Miller, RPSGT, RCP, CCSH, 'Are Pets in the Bedroom a Problem?', Center for Sleep Medicine, Mayo Clinic, December 2015, Volume 90, Issue 12, Pages 1663–1665
Winnie Agbonlahor, 'Women prefer to snuggle up in bed with pet cat or dog rather than partner, study finds', The Telegraph, Feb 28, 2016
Adnan I Qureshi, MD, Muhammad Zeeshan Memon, MD, Gabriela Vazquez, PhD, MS, and M Fareed K Suri, MD, 'Cat ownership and the Risk of Fatal Cardiovascular Disease,' J Vasc Interv Neurol. 2009 Jan; 2(1): 132–135