I Brake For (and Assist) Animals

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I Brake For (and Assist) Animals

By Mark Hawthorne, Striking At the Roots

I could not have slept tonight if I had not given those two little birds to their mother.
— Abraham Lincoln, who stopped to return two fledglings to their nest

If there’s anything that upsets me more than seeing an animal on the road who’s been hit by a car, it’s knowing that the driver simply kept going. Maybe ― in the case of a squirrel or other small animal — the driver wasn’t aware of what he’d done. But no one could miss the thud of a 30- or 40-pound raccoon. Such was the scene I came upon early this morning: an adult raccoon who had been struck by a car, bleeding from her mouth, lying in the middle of a busy two-lane road. I slowed as I passed and thought I detected some movement — a twitch of her tail, perhaps. I pulled over and called Animal Control, but the dispatcher said there was nothing they could do to help a raccoon; he suggested I call the county wildlife-rescue center. No thanks, I thought; I’ll do something myself. Who knows how long before someone runs over her.

I got out of my truck and approached her carefully; she was clearly alive, the hair on her abdomen rising and falling with each breath. I silently cursed everyone who had been too busy or just too insensitive to stop for this poor creature.

There was no way I was going to leave her in the street to die, though I felt woefully unprepared to pick her up and transport her: all I had was a bath towel. What I also needed was a cardboard box, like an animal carrier you get from shelters, and some thick gloves. Draping the towel over her, I tucked the ends of the cloth under her body and gently lifted her, letting one edge of the towel fall over her eyes. She didn’t even stir as I placed her on the floor of my truck. I could only imagine the pain and fear she was suffering. I drove straight to a 24-hour pet hospital in my city, and they agreed to euthanize her. (When I offered to pay, the technician said they have a Good Samaritan policy and don’t charge for euthanizing injured wildlife. Nice.)

Perhaps people don’t stop because they don’t know what to do to help. A little preparation can go a long way, so here are a few tips:

Remember, even if the injured animal does not vocalize, she is scared and in pain. Drive her to your local animal hospital, animal shelter or wildlife-rescue center. If injuries are severe (which would be consistent with being struck by a car), staff will likely euthanize her. That’s not a happy ending, of course, but it’s much better than the fate that would await her lying in the street.

NOTE: PETA offers a rescue kit — including a cardboard box, leash and towel — for $14, though it doesn’t include gloves.