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A driver's responsibilities depend on type of animal they hit

What are a driver's responsibilities after hitting an animal, such as a deer or cow, and are the responsibilities any different if it is a pet, such as a dog or cat?

— Anonymous

A driver's responsibilities do vary by what type of animal is hit. If it is a pet, such as a dog or cat, (in the statute they are called domestic animals), then ORS 811.170 applies. It's titled Failure to Perform the Duties of a Driver When an Animal is Injured. It says if a person knowingly strikes and injures a domestic animal, then the person must do all of the following:

(a) Stop at once.

(b) Make a reasonable effort to determine the nature of the animal's injuries.

(c) Give reasonable attention to the animal.

(d) Immediately report the injury to the animal's owner.

(e) If unable to contact the owner of the animal, notify a police officer.

There is an exception, which is dependent on the traffic hazards then existing, so you may not be able to render aid if you hit something on busy Interstate 5.

This is a Class B traffic violation, presumptive fine being $160, if a driver fails to perform the prescribed duties.

If the animal struck is defined as livestock, such as a cow or horse, then it would depend upon whether the location was open or closed range.

ORS 811.700, commonly known as "property damage hit and run," states, "if a driver damages any fixtures or property legally upon or adjacent to a highway, then the driver shall:

(a) Take reasonable steps to notify the owner or person in charge of the property of such fact, and of the driver's name, address and the registration number of the vehicle the driver is driving.

(b) Upon request and if available, exhibit any document issued as official evidence of a grant of driving privileges to the driver.

The key word here is legally. If the location of the crash is open range, then the animal is free to roam and can legally be on the road, and so this statute would apply. If it was closed range, then the animal is not legally on the roadway and the statute wouldn't apply, and the animal's owner would be liable. If it applies, this offense is a crime, a Class A misdemeanor, meaning you can be arrested and lodged, the bail being $3,000, or you could be cited with the bail to be determined.

If the animal hit is considered wildlife, such as a deer or elk, then no statute applies. However, in all cases where an animal is struck, regardless of whether a driver is required to report, if the struck animal is a traffic hazard, then the police should be notified.

If you're able, you can humanely put down a suffering animal or notify the police.

Even if the animal is deceased and not in the roadway, it would be helpful if the police were notified so they could call the roads department for removal of the carcass.

Contact Jackson County sheriff's patrol Sgt. Dace Cochran at cochradc@jacksoncounty.org.