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A bill in New Hampshire would require residents who hit cats with their cars to report the collisions or face a $1,000 fine, similar to laws in other states.
New Hampshire residents who hit cats with their cars would be required to report the collision to either the animal’s owner or to police under legislation passed this month by state lawmakers.
The bill, initially named Arrow’s Law in honor of the deceased cat that inspired it, amends an existing state law that requires such notice for dogs hit by cars. Violators of the policy are subject to a $1,000 fine, provided they “knowingly” struck the animal and then drove away. Stray or feral cats, which don’t have owners, would not be covered under the legislation.
The New Hampshire House and Senate both passed the legislation in April, but senators later objected to the name Arrow’s Law. In testimony before the Senate Transportation Committee, Rep. Daryl Abbas, a Republican from Salem and the bill’s lead sponsor, said the idea for the legislation came from “a very concerned constituent that lost their cat to being struck by a motor vehicle.”
“This constituent,” he continued, “is actually my wife.”
Abbas noted that the bill did not establish any new precedent other than granting cat owners the same property rights already afforded to dog owners. It does not imply negligence, he said, but offers equal protection to “another domesticated animal.”
“If you hit a statue of a cat, you would have to report that, but currently not a real cat,” he said. “This bill is not creating any new private right of action in a civil case. It would put a cat on an equal playing ground as a dog.”
The transportation committee ultimately approved the bill 5-0, noting in its report that the legislation “either provides closure for the cat owner or allows for the cat owner to act in a timely manner to save their cat’s life.”
Most states consider hitting an animal with a car a destruction of property and thus a potential violation, though some have amended laws to specifically consider domesticated animals. In Massachusetts, for example, state law requires drivers to report collisions with both dogs and cats, with penalties ranging from $100 or 10 days in jail for a first offense to a $500 fine plus medical expenses up to $2,500 for subsequent violations. Rhode Island’s law covers all domesticated animals, but with a maximum fine of $50.
New Hampshire’s amended legislation—stripped of its name—now awaits a signature from Gov. Chris Sununu, whose cat has its own private Instagram account. He’s likely to sign it, he told the Associated Press.
“Cats and dogs, dogs and cats, you can’t have one without the other,” Sununu said. “I think it’s a parity bill, and unless they were to change something, I fully intend to sign it.”
Kate Elizabeth Queram is a senior reporter for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.
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