In March 2021, the city’s MyLA311 system fielded 1,712 requests to remove a dead dog, cat, possum or other animal from Los Angeles streets, backyards or additional locations. The following month, crews from the team that are part of the Bureau of Sanitation were much busier: There were 2,337 dead-animal removal requests.
The 2021 figures continue a little-noticed but curious trend. An examination of publicly available MyLA311 data reveals that every spring, usually in April or May, calls for this free city service rocket up. They tend to remain elevated through October, then tumble. November dead-animal removal calls are typically about 25% lower than the previous month.
In four of the last five years, the nadir for calls was in February (in the lone exception, in 2020, the low point occurred in March).
From April to October 2021, Angelenos made 16,681 dead animal removal calls, for an average of 2,383 each month. During the rest of the year there were 9,055 pick-up requests, for a monthly average of 1,811.
The situation appears poised to repeat. This February there were 1,834 dead-animal removal requests in the city. In the first few weeks of March there had been 1,982.
Young animals out on their own
Why do the numbers spike in the spring? There’s a logical if grim reason: breeding patterns and young, vulnerable animals.
Victory Kuaea, a manager with All City Animal Trapping, a private service, said the seasonal increase could be propelled by factors such as young possums and raccoons leaving their mothers for the first time. During this period, they are vulnerable to getting hit by a car or being attacked by a coyote or other predator.
“If they’re on their own, they are not as savvy as their mother,” he said.
Feral cats and dogs that have litters could also feed into the problem, as their young seek to navigate a busy, often dangerous city.
Though few people may be aware of it, the city has a prohibition against putting a beloved animal companion in a final resting place near their humans. According to Los Angeles Municipal Code 53.62, residents may not “bury any animal or fowl in the City except in an established cemetery.” They may seek out pet cemeteries or animal cremation services.
Dead animals, with the exception of horses and cows, are collected free of charge by the city. It is unclear how many of these calls involve picking up deceased pets, and how frequently requests involve wild or feral creatures. Since 2016, there have generally been about 25,000 requests per year, even during the pandemic.
Javier Gutierrez, an animal control manager with the Downey Animal Care Center, which operates under the County Animal Care and Control Department, and provides service to unincorporated areas throughout the county, said calls for dead animal removal are fairly evenly distributed throughout the region. The exceptions, he said, are areas such as Whittier and Rancho Palos Verdes which have more wildlife, and thus prompt more calls.
He agreed that the rising requests in the spring and summer are likely due to breeding season. He added that it is another reason why it is important to spay and neuter pets in order to reduce the animal population.
How we did it: We examined publicly available data from the City of Los Angeles’s MyLA311 call center. For neighborhood boundaries, we rely on the borders defined by the Los Angeles Times. Learn more about our data here.
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