TAMPA — Hillsborough County on Thursday said it can no longer afford to pick up dead animals by the side of the road.
So what are residents to do?
Get a shovel.
Because of budget cuts that went into effect Wednesday, Hillsborough County Animal Services has eliminated dead animal pickup as one of its official duties. It was one of several cuts that saved more than $325,000 from the Animal Services budget.
"If there's a dead animal on the road, it's not really a public health issue or a public safety issue," said Dennis McCullough, Animal Services' acting director. "It's more of a quality of life, 'I don't want to see it out there' issue."
When the last full-time employee assigned to pick up dead animals left his job in 2007, the county did not fill the position. Animal control officers then retrieved road kill on the way to other calls.
Now even that service is gone. Animal Services dispatchers will still refer calls from Tampa, Temple Terrace or Plant City, which handle dead animals through their solid waste departments, or to the Department of Transportation for animals found along state roads.
Residents of unincorporated Hillsborough may have to rely on themselves to dispose of animal carcasses.
"We steer people toward alternatives," McCullough said, "up to telling a citizen, you can either bury it if possible, or bag it in your garbage. Unfortunately, some (services) have to be cut. And this is one of them that I'm sure people are going to find distasteful."
All county departments had to prioritize services because of property tax reform that reduced money coming in to the county. County Administrator Pat Bean reviewed the lists and decided how much to trim.
Removing dead animals, while important, ranks behind public safety or ensuring the humane treatment of animals that are still alive, McCullough said.
Animal Services workers know the decision will not be popular.
"This is a very tough question," said communications supervisor Tom Green, "and it's a question none of us want to answer because we're telling the citizens, 'Look, we're not able to do this any longer. You're going to need to find a way to do this yourself.' "
Andrew Meacham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 661-2431.