Legal Eagle: Could you be prosecuted for killing an animal while driving?

It’s not something anyone would ever wish to experience, but road kill is something which happens to most drivers at some point in their lives.

While most of incidents of road kill are accidental, some stem from careless or even dangerous driving, so where exactly does the law stand?

Are you legally obliged to stop? Are you liable for prosecution if you do not report it to the police?

Thanks to the new partnership with with Olliers Solicitors, a leading criminal law firm based in Manchester,  MM can shed some light on the legal ramifications of killing an animal while driving.

This week’s legal question comes from Charlie M, who posed the following conundrum:


Hi news team at Mancunian Matters,

please can you pass this question over to your legal friends please…? Thanks!


Last summer my friend (without naming any names!) hit a deer while he was away camping near the forest of Bowland area (I think!)

The deer ran into the side (or wing?) of his car while he was driving round at night. By the time he got out and had a look around there was only some blood but it had disappeared. He didn’t really check very hard though so it could have been dead in the bushes…

Could my friend have been prosecuted if the animal had been left to die by the road? What should someone do if they hit an animal like this?

And if there are laws protecting deers, swans and perhaps farm animals, does this apply to badgers or rabbits and so on? Or are they fair game? Sorry only joking there…

Sorry for the jokes but this is a serious question…

Kind regards,

Charlie M


In 2013, the AA compiled figures in respect of collisions involving deer and found that between 40,000 and 75,000 deer are killed in collisions on the roads every year which seems a shockingly high number.

Most drivers are aware that they need to stop and report accidents but some may be surprised that this legislation also applies to accidents involving animals.

Section 170 of the Act deals with duty and it specifically states that a driver must stop when involved in an accident by which ‘damage is caused to an animal other than an animal in or on that vehicle’.

It goes on to say that the driver must stop and, if required to do so, give his name and address to a relevant party.

If for whatever reason this is not possible (i.e. the owner of the animal is not present), the accident must be reported to the police as soon as possible or within 24 hours. 

Under this piece of legislation, ‘animal’ refers to horse, cattle, ass, mule, sheep, pig, goat or dog.

Accidents involving other animals such as cats, badgers, foxes, rabbits and pheasants do not need to be reported as a road traffic collision.

Strictly speaking, this legislation does not require you to report a collision with a deer as it does not fall under any of the categories of animal listed. 

In Great Britain, legislation (The Deer Act 1991) prohibits the taking or killing of deer unless it is done for the purpose of preventing the suffering of an injured deer.

That said, many police forces around the country have Deer Wardens as a way to help keep the roads safe while also treating animals injured in collisions.

You should therefore report it 101 so that a Deer Warden can attend and take care of any injuries or, if necessary put the animal down  as this can only be done by an authorised person.

In respect of whether or not your friend could be prosecuted, the answer (in short) would be no, at least not under the above legislation.

However if there was a witnesses to any poor driving then charges of careless or dangerous driving may be brought and the death of the animal used as an aggravating factor.

Unfortunately for deer, it would be unwise for drivers to actively swerve to try and avoid a collision. Doing so may result in losing control and colliding with another vehicle or property.

If this happens, formal charges would more than likely be brought and it may be very difficult for you to prove that the deer was ever there in the first place.

The best thing to do if you see deer on the road is to drive at a slow and steady pace whenever possible but not try to make any sudden manoeuvres.

To get your law questions answered by Olliers’ Legal Eagle, all you need to do is email your legal question to newsdesk (at)

You can find more about Olliers Solicitors here.




Image courtesy of Swallowsan, with thanks.

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