Hunt on for driver

LtoR: Stephen Bhandal (Atwell), Jane Bhandal (19, Atwell)
LtoR: Stephen Bhandal (Atwell), Jane Bhandal (19, Atwell)

The Bhandal family’s four-year-old pet, Smoothie, a Jack Russell cross Maltese, was left with a broken neck when she was hit by a car, believed to be a black Hyundai Getz, on the afternoon of November 17.

Most concerning for the family was that the driver didn’t stop.

‘We would like the person to come forward,’ owner Cherelene said. ‘We understand that it was most likely an accident and we don’t want to take it any further, but she was a part of our family.’

The family said the driver might not have known they had hit the pet, considering its size. It was a point backed up by Australian Veterinary Association spokesman David Neck.

‘You certainly wouldn’t feel the impact. (Dogs) are quite malleable, so they can simply bounce off,’ he said.

‘And they quite often come at you from a level you can’t even see, so drivers rarely have a clue they’ve hit them.’

A spokeswoman from the WA Police Traffic Policy Unit said there were no provisions in the Road Traffic Act that require a driver to stop when they hit an animal, although drivers are required to stop if they cause damage to property. The legal position is that ‘property’ does not include animals.

‘The Animal Welfare Act 2002 provides that it is an offence for any person to be cruel to an animal by maliciously wounding it or causing unnecessary harm,’ she said. ‘This offence relates more to intentionally driving at the dog and would not generally cover a dog running out on the road, if that were the case.’

‘There are no legal requirements for the driver to do anything.’

Cockburn City Council’s ranger and community safety services manager Bruce Mentz said residents should call the ranger if they do hit a dog.

‘If an animal is injured the ranger will scan for a microchip to identify the owner,’ he said. ‘Even if the owner is not identified, the City will take the animal to the vet.’

‘If you see an incident of an injured animal do the right thing and report it to the rangers so the animal can receive medical care.’

Mr Mentz said the number of injured animals attended to in Cockburn had increased from 18 in 2011/2012 to 24 in 2012/13.

But Bree Pheasby from the Success Veterinary Hospital said pets were more likely to pay her a visit for skin allergy or dog attack treatment and she hadn’t noticed an increased trend in pets being brought in after being hit by a car.

‘We get a couple each month and the severity of the injuries differ,’ she said. ‘But it’s not high on our list.’