CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - Chattanooga officials have stopped taking the bodies of euthanized pets to an animal center for cremation and instead are dumping them in the city landfill, veterinarians say.
Veterinarians have paid several hundred dollars a year for the past three years for the city to pick up the bodies of euthanized pets and take them to McKamey Animal Center for cremation.
But Ann Ball, the chairwoman of McKamey's governing board, says she was not told the city had stopped delivering the dead pets to McKamey more than a month ago and was instead dumping the bodies in a landfill.
Chattanooga's Public Works Department had an agreement since 2010 with the animal center. About seven veterinary hospitals or clinics pay a quarterly fee of $208 for city pick-up service. The city keeps 10 percent and gives McKamey the rest in quarterly sums.
In 2013, the public works department picked up nearly 500 dead animals from the area hospitals and 960 dead animals upon calls for service. McKamey officials said the center was paid about $3,000.
But Ball said after sending the city the quarterly bill at the end of the year, the trucks stopped coming. She said city officials explained that cremation was not a necessary service and the city was losing money on it.
"We were very surprised to hear it," Ball said. "It's not a huge amount of money and it is upsetting that this system has gone back to the dump process."
City spokeswoman Lacie Stone said the recommendation to cut the service came from public works and its director, Lee Norris, to cut costs.
"This is a business decision by the veterinary clinics to use the city for collections at a lower cost or they could contact McKamey directly to have the animals cremated," Stone wrote in an email.
Dr. Kevin Ade, a veterinarian at Middle Valley Animal Hospital, said he learned about the changes Wednesday through a letter from Ball. He said he will have a staff member take bodies to McKamey several times a week so no one's pet goes to the landfill. McKamey will charge the hospital the same fee as the city did.
"I wouldn't like my own dog or cat going to the landfill. It's just a negative connotation," Ade said. "It feels terrible to me."