What greater gift can there be than the love of a pet?

John Hayes with Harvey's Law campaigners ANL-150903-110555001
John Hayes with Harvey's Law campaigners ANL-150903-110555001
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HAYES IN THE HOUSE: By MP John Hayes

Affection takes many forms. Homes are bound by ties, and the love that in families dwells is, in my judgment, enhanced, even deepened—by the affection felt for domestic animals.

For all animal lovers it is heart-breaking to contemplate a family pet hurt or killed on roads

The atmosphere engendered by pets in any home, and the mood they generate, changes families and changes lives.

They teach us to regard what God made in a different way; they challenge our certainties; they oblige sensitivity in all but the most inane; and they soften all but the hardest of hearts. In particular, for people living alone, the companionship of a pet makes a heart-warming difference.

One of my favourite poets, TS Eliot, said: “When a cat adopts you there is nothing to be done about it except put up with it until the wind changes.” When we are adopted by our pets, we understand that affection, that deepening love.

Since, in Eliot’s terms, my family here in Moulton became ‘adopted’ by two loving and playful cats I’ve come to understand why the loss of a pet is so extraordinarily distressing. For those whose dog or cat goes missing, not knowing what has happened to them is horrible.

Following the disappearance of her poodle, Jude Devine was devastated to learn that her pet, Harvey, had been killed in an accident on the M62. That she was not informed of her dog’s death for four months made matters much worse.

Last week in Parliament I met campaigners, led by Jude, who had travelled from across the country to call for a change in the way that such awful accidents are dealt with.

Over 120,000 people signed her petition calling for the Highways Agency to identify pets killed on roads and to contact their owners.

Known as ‘Harvey’s Law’, their petition made its way to the House of Commons, and as the Minister of State for Transport, having ordered an immediate review of policy as soon as I heard about Harvey’s plight, I was delighted to announce that they had been successful in their campaign.

I have told the Highways Agency it must do everything it can to contact owners of dogs killed on motorways or major trunks roads.

But to the delight of the campaigners I’ve gone further; the agency must now do the same for cats as well, and, mindful of the fact that many animal fatalities are on smaller roads managed by local authorities, those councils have also been made aware of this change.

For all animal lovers it is heart-breaking to contemplate a family pet hurt or killed on roads. Because we are made more human by the love of an animal it is understandable that when a pet is lost, and its fate is uncertain, feelings run deep. To paraphrase Charles Dickens; what greater gift can there be than the love of a cat or dog?