How to Help Injured Animals on the Road

A 2002 study by Friends of Animals revealed that hunting is one cause of deer road injuries.
A 2002 study by Friends of Animals revealed that hunting is one cause of deer road injuries. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

We've all seen them: Pitiful victims of an encounter with a human lying on the side of the road. It's a tough call when deciding if and when you should help out. Your heart's in the right place, but you aren't sure what to do. According to the nonprofit organization Culture Change, a group organized to raise awareness of environmental issues, a million animals are killed every year by the 190 million cars, buses and trucks that take to the road daily. There are no animal-advocacy organizations taking on the cause of roadkill, but there is something one person can do.

Things You'll Need

  • Leather gloves
  • Blanket
  • Towel
  • Box or transport crate
  • Leash
  • Muzzle

Assess the situation. If you are dealing with a large animal, such as a deer, horse or other wild creature, you must call for help. Do not attempt to assist the animal on your own. If the animal is in the road, determine if it is safe for you to use your car as a barricade. Then, pull your car up to where the animal is and put your emergency blinkers on to alert other drivers to the fact that they need to go around you. Call the police, highway patrol or state wildlife agency. Wait for instructions. An animal in shock can be a dangerous animal.

A large animal, such as a horse, requires the assistance of an equine specialist.
A large animal, such as a horse, requires the assistance of an equine specialist. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Pull your car off the road and put your emergency blinkers on if the animal is not in the road. If the victim is a dog, cat or other smaller animal, put your leather gloves on for safety. If you do not have gloves, protect your hands and arms with clothing, a blanket or towel wrapped around your hands. If the animal is alert and awake and can move on its own, gently lift the animal and place it in a box or transport carrier and put into your car. Call the police to find the nearest humane society or emergency veterinary clinic.

A dog that has been hit by a car may be in shock.
A dog that has been hit by a car may be in shock. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Perform CPR on a dog or cat that is not breathing. Call to the animal to see if you get a response. If you do not, feel for a pulse. Do this by putting your fingers under the animal's left flank. There is a prominent artery there that you will be able to feel easily with gentle pressure. If no pulse, watch for signs of breathing. If the animal is not breathing and there is no pulse you can perform CPR.

For profuse bleeding, proceed as you would with a person. Hold pressure on the bleeding using your towel or blanket until you can get the animal to a veterinarian.

Proceed with caution with any wild animal, such as a raccoon. Animals in pain and in shock could be dangerous and unpredictable. Use a leash to restrain the animal. You can loop the leash by putting the fastener part through the handle loop, making an emergency cinch-leash. Muzzle the animal if you can. Opossums hit on the road may have babies that can be saved. If you find a dead or dying opossum, search its pouch for babies that can be saved with intervention.

Pick up a turtle with great care. Alligator snapping turtles can reach all the way around to their tails and are capable of inflicting a nasty bite. If the turtle is injured, take it to the nearest wildlife hospital. If it is not, and you just want to get it off the road, you must first determine if it is a land turtle or a water turtle. A land turtle will have a completely dry shell. Take this turtle to nearby woods and release it. A water turtle will have a wet or shiny shell. It usually has algae on the shell. Take this turtle to the nearest water source, such as a lake or pond. Always take the turtle in the direction it was originally traveling.

Tips & Warnings

  • Never try to catch an injured cat who is mobile. The cat may dash into traffic to avoid getting caught.
  • Wild animals are dangerous even when they are not injured. Use extreme care and caution when attempting to assist a wild animal, especially rabies-vector species such as raccoons.

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