By Jedidiah McKeehan
So, you are driving down the road to your house, minding your own business, and an animal darts out in front of you. You simply do not have time to swerve and you hit the animal, and unfortunately, you kill it. You may be heart broken, you may feel terrible about it, but what should you do with the animal whose life you just ended?
I would be willing to bet that most of us would simply keep driving, or perhaps get out and check to see what the damage is to our vehicle if the animal is larger in size. However, there are other alternatives available to you as a motorist in Tennessee.
Pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 70-4-115(c), motorists are not required to report game accidentally killed by the operation of a motor vehicle. Wild animals accidentally killed by a motor vehicle may be possessed by any person for personal use and consumption.
So, let’s unpack that. Essentially this means that you are legally allowed to take home your fresh roadkill and eat it.
Let’s be honest, the odds of you hitting an animal and you having the desire to prepare it for consumption and eating it while living in Tennessee are pretty small. However, this is actually a very, very common occurrence in Alaska. In Alaska, almost all roadkill is eaten. In Alaska, between 600 and 800 moose are killed each year by motor vehicles, creating up to 250,000 pounds of organic, free-range meat. That is a huge amount of food available for consumption.
In Tennessee, there is not near as many large animals that would actually be worth preparing for consumption. The animal that comes to mind in Tennessee that you might hit that you would want to possibly consume is deer, and Tennessee law specifically makes you take additional steps if you hit and kill a deer or a bear.
If you hit a deer, you may only consume it if you notify law enforcement within 48 hours of the animal’s death and provide your name and address. If you hit a bear, you also have to notify law enforcement of such.
For you, personally, to ever brush up against this law you would have to first accidentally hit and kill an animal while driving, then decide that you would like to consume the animal that you just killed. Seems unlikely, but if you do, be aware of the laws with which you need to comply.
Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties. He works in many areas, including criminal, divorce, custody, personal injury, landlord-tenant, civil litigation and estate planning. Visit attorney-knoxville.com for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.