Earlier this month, we had the opportunity to catch up with Mandy Hobbis, CoFounder of Cats Matter about their mission to see all cats microchipped. Read on to see the full interview transcript :)
Please tell us about Cats Matter and why it is important...
CatsMatter are a focus group aiming to change legislation and mindsets, and raise awareness to help educate people on what they can do to help a cat they have hit when driving, or if they find one in the road. With official figures showing a cat is hit every 2.5 minutes in the UK, so many lives have already been lost. Our awareness day aims to commemorate them, and be a time people can remember them and pay tribute. It also aims to raise as much awareness as possible so as more people know what to do in future instances. Millions of animals are hit by cars on UK roads every year, so if we can reach as many people as possible and help them understand how to help, many lives can be saved in the future. Unfortunately, many see them as 'just a cat' or 'just a fox', but we hope to drill it in that all animals feel pain, have families and a life, and all deserve a chance to get help. With domestic pets, drivers actions also has an impact on the human families behind the cat or dog. It's easy to see big numbers and forget these are actual lives being lost and real pain being felt, so to have a day where individual people share their stories and highlight how it's impacted their lives, we hope others can see it's never 'just a statistic' or 'just a cat'.
What inspired you to organise an Animal Road Awareness Day? What will it achieve?
Awareness Days really focus that day events. We hope to keep animal road accidents on the agenda every day of the year, but having an awareness day really mobilises the media and gets people on social media sharing things and generally talking about it. World spay day is a good example, many media outlets focus on the benefits of neutering and charities tend to offer incentives to encourage people. The online community share articles on it, and generally it gets people talking and thinking about the issue. We hope Animal Road Awareness Day will really highlight the issue to a much wider audience than ours generally, and really get people thinking about animals on the road and considering what they can do should it happen to them. We find that many people simply just don't know what to do in these situations, so having this day will really help spread the message far and wide. We feel it will achieve people thinking about it differently, and mobilise more action on the issue from MPs and ministers.
Why do you think your crowdfunding campaign was so successful?
We're so grateful to everyone who donated and shared our crowdfunding campaign, especially during such a dark period when everyone's minds are understandably elsewhere. I personally think it was such a success for the very same reasons we wanted to create it in the first place. Like us, so many people have sadly been affected by this and lost a cat to the road, and they want to help make a difference and stop others going through the same thing, as well as pay tribute to those they have lost. There's definitely times it doesn't feel like it, but the truth is that many do care about animals and do want to help wherever, and however they can. We are an animal loving nation and the majority of us feel heart broken when we see dead animals by the side of the road, be it a hedgehog, badger or whatever. We just want to do all we can to help minimise that, and encourage drivers to at least try and seek help for them and give them some chance. Sadly it's become all too common on certain roads now, and it seems that it's almost become accepted and normal. It wouldn't be 'normal' to drive up the M6 and see human remains every mile or so, so it shouldn't be normal to see animal bodies all up the A1. We feel the majority of people want the same and that's another reason people have chosen to help and be part of it.
What else have you got planned for 2020?
The government is still going ahead with the compulsory microchipping of cats, so we expect that legislation to come in the very near future which is very exciting and it's been a fantastic journey to be such a big part of it. We are also continuing to work with DEFRA on the issue of scanning and reportable road accidents. In terms of reportable road accidents involving cats, it has been internally discussed and will be revisited once microchipping legislation has gone through. In terms of councils scanning cats found, Zac Goldsmith has been working on our ideas since before the election, and internal discussions between DEFRA and the Local Government Department are ongoing to introduce a best practice guide. Our Scotland petition has also resulted in recommendations being made to consider compulsory microchipping in cats in Scotland too, so there's a fair bit happening to continue working on which will start to materialise very soon.