Dogs with their skulls cracked open, puppies with grave spinal injuries and animals limping on three limbs, howling in agony - the injury unit at an animal shelter or hospital will terrify the bravest of visitors. The dogs are victims of accidents, many being hit-and-run cases, which means they lie on the road for several hours before someone called for help.

Some animal-friendly road rules:

(a) Slow down: This seems fairly obvious but the fact remains that a majority of accidents could have been prevented if the driver wasn't speeding. The impact when hit by a fast-moving vehicle is significantly higher.

(b) Brake: We mistakenly assume that animals always get out of the way when we honk. However, they sometimes go into shock when faced with danger and their reflexes switch off. Hit the brakes.

(c) Take special care while reversing, in the dark or in narrow lanes (they lie with limbs outstretched onto the road). Going out for drinks? Nominate a group member to be the sober driver.

(d) If you've hit an animal, pick it up carefully (there could be fractures), put it in a car or auto and go to the nearest veterinary hospital. Keep emergency numbers and addresses handy. Calling an animal ambulance is the next best option as delays could be fatal. Make a contribution to cover medical care.

Says veterinarian Dr. S.V. Sujatha- “If the head is hit, brain damage could result in coma and even after recovery, they might have seizures. For one dog, I had to completely reconstruct the leg. It has a permanent limp”. She observes that apart from physical repercussions, their temperament also changes. “I've noticed dogs chasing vehicles after getting hurt in accidents as they're afraid of getting hit again. Even the sound of a bike frightens them. Since this mostly happens to street dogs, they have to go back to the streets after recovery.”

As homeless animals have gotten a raw deal in life, we can at least protect them from reckless behaviour, by driving safely.

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