Edinburgh’s “West End legend” Hugo the Cat may have a law passed due to his untimely death. Hugo was an Arabian Mau well-known to the residents of Edinburgh’s West End in Scotland. He was often seen wandering the capital’s streets and even had a presence on social media.
In April, Hugo died after being struck by a car, and now citizens who cared about him are calling for a change to current laws about reporting vehicle strikes with animals. Moving forward, they’d like to see people required to report collisions with cats to the police, a veterinarian, and the RSPCA.
Animal Welfare Laws
To date, motorists must notify the authorities if they hit dogs, horses, sheep, pigs, foxes, badgers, mules, cows, and goats under a section of the Road Traffic Act 1988, which applies to England, Scotland, and Wales.
These same people are also required to inform a veterinarian so that the animal can be examined and given treatment if needed. But for some bizarre reason, the same law is not relevant to felines.
Campaigning for Change
As a result of Hugo’s sad death, local citizens are now campaigning for changes to the law governing how/when people stop for injured animals to include cats. It’s referred to as Hugo’s Law.
His owner, Jane Rutherford, explained to the BBC that she feels it would be an appropriate tribute to the animal. “A cat is no less precious than a dog. We don’t know how long he was there – ten minutes or an hour – in pain. I would love to see that change so other pets are not discarded.”
The campaign has reached the attention of animal advocates across the U.K. Paula Stewart, who is the Managing Director at The Animal Talent, a casting agency providing ethically-trained animals for film and television, told NationalWorld that “It’s great that the community are uniting for something so positive; Hugo would have a lasting legacy that supports many cats and their owners.”
Stewart feels a change in the law could help save a cat’s life if action were taken quickly enough. “On top of this, this will help the worried owners immeasurably. The connection we have with our feline friends is a very special bond and we should do everything we can to support the welfare of animals and their guardians.”
Viral Cat Posts
After Hugo’s death, Rutherford took to social media to inform people of his passing. She referred to Hugo as “one in a million” and thanked everyone who had cared about him, writing, “Just thought I’d let you all know that Hugo was involved in a traffic accident. Thanks to one of our fabulous community, Jack, he was taken to a vet. Unfortunately, due to a number of factors, I had to make the difficult decision to put Hugo to sleep. My heart is broken but he was comfortable and peaceful.”
Losing a Pet
Interestingly, the issue of reporting was debated in Parliament three months before Hugo was hit when a petition on the subject received 102,437 signatures. The Department for Transport decided not to change the law to include felines, saying that their focus was to “make roads safer for all users, which will, in turn, reduce the risk to all animals.”
They also questioned the weight of the impact such a legal change would have, although they did acknowledge “how distressing it can be for someone to lose a pet, especially without knowing what has happened” to them.
Doing the Right Thing
While there’s currently no obligation to report cat deaths on roadways, Rule 286 of The Highway Code advises all drivers to report accidents involving any animal to the police and to inform the owner of domestic pets, if possible.
Recognizing there’s no legal requirement to comply, animal charity Cats Protection encourages anyone who injures a cat while operating a motor vehicle to take the animal to a vet for care or to report the incident to local authorities in the case of death.