|'Why I Support Harvey's Law'|
Angie Bray calls for tighter legislation over animal road deaths
Local MP and dog owner, Angie Bray, supports a new law about domestic animals found killed on the road. Harvey's Law has a website and the current petition can be found here. Below is Ms Bray's Westminster speech about the issue.
I don't think anyone - at least anyone with a heart - could fail to be moved by the sad story of Harvey, a family dog killed on a motorway but whose fate wasn't discovered until 13 weeks later.
And it is only made worse by the knowledge that what happened to Harvey happens far too often to family pets. For those of us who have brought pets into our homes and made them a part of the family - and I am of course talking here about many, many, many of us - it is simply inconceivable that in death, killed on a road - they can simply be chucked to one side because the Highways Agency can't be bothered to do the decent thing and report it as their own guidelines currently require.
Now there are suggestions that these guidelines may get changed later this year so that it is no longer necessary for the death of identifiable animals on the roads to be reported to owners. I certainly hope that these remain just suggestions. It's bad enough that the guidelines get ignored while they still exist, it would be intolerable to turn this into the norm. Instead I believe that these guidelines should be beefed up so that the Highways Agency is absolutely obliged by law to do the right thing and ensure that deaths are reported to owners when and where the animal's ownership can be identified.
I frequently get tweets from constituents whose pets have gone missing, asking me to retweet their photos and the details of where they were last seen. I am always happy to do so, when I can, because I know just how painful and miserable it is to lose a pet and wonder what on earth has happened to it. Most people would prefer to know the worst so that at least they can come to terms with it rather than worrying about what might have happened sometimes in the most appalling imaginings.
I remember when my dog went missing in Hyde Park. She went there every day with a friend who looked after her – I called her Tuppence after I rescued her from Battersea Dogs Home – while I worked at LBC Radio. Only one day, when I came home she wasn’t there. Instead there was a tearful message on my voicemail to say she had run off as soon as the canons were fired in the park to practice for a forthcoming royal birthday celebration. I went straight back out with a friend to drive round where I could in Hyde Park. To no avail. I then spent a truly horrendous night worrying about where she might be and what was happening to her. I worried that she was miserable cold and wet and frightened. Then worse, that she was being teased and tortured by a gang of youths who had found her somewhere. I did not sleep a wink.
Eventually, late the next afternoon, my friend rang to say that she had been found. I won’t go into all the complicated story, but a family who had found her and rather wanted to keep her, had decided to take her for a check-over to their local vet. Well would you believe it – he also happened to be my local vet and he said “Ah you’ve brought Tuppence Bray in, we’ve been looking for her!!”
Now I know I was very lucky as was Tuppence. But the point I wanted to make in telling this story is that the agony of not knowing was actually agonising and there would have been a point when I would rather have been told that she had been found – dead – than never to know at all what happened to her. That would have stayed with me and continued to haunt me.
It must be borne in mind that those of us who choose to share our family life with a pet are making a pretty big investment. Obviously there is a financial cost in terms of food, heating, vet fees, insurance maybe. But there is obviously also a major emotional investment for most of us too just as there is with all family members. I have always assumed that that investment is properly recognised which is why it has always been considered incumbent on organisations like the Highways Agency to do the decent thing and report a pet’s death to its owner – wherever possible. Not to do so is not only a poor indication of the attitude of officialdom towards all of us, it smacks of carelessness and diminishes the quality of service that we should be able to rely on.
Moreover, there is a legal obligation already, we should not forget, on all of us as citizens, who unfortunately kill a dog on the roads. to report it to the police so they can inform owners where identification is possible. We mustn't loosen that requirement, often traumatic but nevertheless essential, on ourselves either. We must all play our part.
There is even less excuse now for failing to inform owners. We are all being encouraged, in some cases required, to take advantage of technology and to micro-chip our pets, certainly our dogs, so that they and their owners can be more readily identified. I thoroughly support this. But it would seem strange that just when we are using modern technology to make identification easier, we decide we can’t be bothered to use it for the most basic civility. We most certainly expect publicly funded agencies like the police and the Highways Agency to do what is right.
I know that some people regard us animal lovers as a bit strange. And doubtless some do go abit overboard about their beloved pets. But I have always believed that the ability to love animals, empathise with them and wanting to give them a happy and secure life is an important part of building our kinder, gentler nature. It should be respected as all our other relationships should be too. When our pets get tragically killed on our roads, then our agencies, in this instance, the Highways Agency absolutely should show some proper respect by having the decency to inform us and there should be no avoiding this where identification can be made. I can hardly believe that there should be attempts to wriggle out of this public duty, but if there is then I would support making it a legal obligation.
NB The Minister gave a very positive response to the debate and said that he would be insisting that the Highways Agency continues to inform owners when their pets have been killed on the roads. Transport for London and Local Councils which manage the roads across London would be contacted too.
3rd March 2015