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Adding cat clause to traffic law ‘would be heavy handed’

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CHANGING the Road Traffic Law to make it illegal to drive away after hitting a cat without reporting the incident would place a ‘severe burden’ on the honorary and States police, according to a States spokesperson.

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Cat owners have backed a fresh public call to make changes to the law so that cats are treated in the same way as dogs when it comes to road traffic accidents.

Under current legislation it is an offence to hit a dog and drive away without reporting the accident, but it is not illegal to drive away if the animal involved is a cat.

The debate has captured public attention following the submission of an e-petition – called Make it law to stop ‘Hit and Run’ for Cats – that was posted on the States website.

The petition, which was posted in March by a local cats’ rights activist called Sandra Alves Freitas, has received 2,452 signatures so far.

Previously, thousands of Islanders signed a petition started by Sandra Jasmins in 2015 calling for the same law change. However, to date no such change has been made.

In 2017 the JSPCA dealt with a total of 96 cats that had been involved in road accidents.

A States spokesperson said: ‘The Law Officers’ Department, the States of Jersey Police, the States Vet and the JSPCA were all consulted, and it was concluded that changing the Road Traffic Law to include cats in the definition would be a heavy-handed approach which would place a severe burden on the time and resources of both honorary police and States of Jersey Police.’

In a recent statement a spokesperson from the States said that while cats were not included in the Road Traffic Law, they were covered under the 2004 Animal Welfare Law.

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‘It is already an offence, with penalties of up to 12 months’ imprisonment and a fine of up to £10,000, to do or omit to do any act so as to cause unnecessary suffering to a domestic animal (including cats), including failing to contact a vet.

‘Since 2015, when the issue was first raised in the States, the Highway Code has been updated to reduce the suffering of cats which are the victims of road traffic accidents by ensuring that drivers are required to get a vet quickly,’ the States spokesperson said. However, failure to do so would not lead to a prosecution, as is the case with dogs.

At the time the code was updated, the former Infrastructure Minister, ex-Deputy Eddie Noel, decided it would not be ‘appropriate’ to bring cats under the legisalation, because cats are roaming animals and such a change to the law would require owners to control their pets.

Responding to the recent e-petition, a spokesperson from the JSPCA said: ‘We would welcome any changes in the law to provide a better chance for animals in the Island. Any accidents, whether [involving] cat or dog, could then be reported to the police to be investigated further.’

Krystle Higgins

By Krystle Higgins
Reporter

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