Why can’t Toronto pick up dead raccoons
Someone slipped a red rose under her outstretched paw, others left condolences in a card. As night fell, candles appeared, as #DEADRACCONTO became a viral vigil.
The tragic trash panda, whose body lay unclaimed for hours on the corner of Yonge and Church streets a few years ago, was finally tossed into a trash bag, its memory living on as a story of a quirky animal from the town.
But beneath the whimsical memorial lurks a serious municipal problem — why can’t Toronto pick up dead raccoons (and other animal carcasses) in a timely manner?
Concerned citizen Mary Connolly has called 311 at least a dozen times about animal pickups, including dead raccoons, some still alive, and even a turtle.
She is fed up with the time it takes to collect the animals.
“Something is wrong,” Connolly said. « I find it inefficient and they need to improve their game a bit. »
Dead animals, she said, deserve to be treated with respect, and the living could be saved if crews arrived sooner. It is also a health hazard to leave bodies lying around, especially in parks or playgrounds where there are children and dogs.
This summer, it took eight days before a raccoon, found alive but deceased, near Dundas St. East and Gerrard St. East, was picked up by the city, she said, despite multiple appeals to the 311 of herself and others.
Connolly and a friend took it upon themselves to pull it off the road and put it in a cardboard box.
« I would drive by and see the box still there, and I wouldn’t open it, because I don’t do that, I have a weak stomach, » she recalls.
Toronto Animal Services is responsible for picking up the bodies of large wild animals and pets on public property, and can be alerted by calling 311. At the moment, they are « experiencing a backlog of service requests » typical of the most recent months. warmer, a spokesperson said. in an email. They prioritize calls for sick or injured live animals.
“Currently, the average response time for dead animal pickup is eight days compared to the standard 48 hours,” the spokesperson added. The team received 209 requests to pick up dead animals and 199 requests for sick and injured animals, over a three-day period earlier this month. There are usually only three or four animal control officers working during the day and two at night. There is no one who works between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m.
The city does not have a separate budget line allocated to this work. Instead, it’s part of Toronto Animal Services’ budget ($13.9 million in 2022), which includes things like investigating dog bite complaints and pet licensing.
Ward 4 Parkdale-High Park Councilor Gord Perks said there were several reasons animal services were under-resourced. The department was reorganized, and at that time many said there were not enough staff.
Since city services haven’t had any new budget increases for several years, « they haven’t had a chance to make up that initial shortfall, » he said. In addition, salaries are too low to attract and retain the right people.
« It’s a big system problem, it’s austerity writ large, » he said.
« If you can’t do the basic things, the city stops working and people lose faith in the government. »
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