Warning: This story may disturb some readers.
Many people in the South Bay area of Saratoga, California, reacted with outrage last month when Caltrans admitted that it had disposed of the body of a special service dog by taking it to a rendering plant without even notifying the owner. Following up on this story, the CBS 5 news investigative team discovered that Caltrans dumped not just one, but apparently hundreds of dead animals in Santa Clara County.
The animal dumping ground is known to insiders as the “Pet Cemetery”, where for years workers have dumped wildlife and even pets. A Caltrans employee who asked to remain anonymous told CBS 5 Investigates that workers take dead animals to the “Pet Cemetery” and simply throw them over the cliff. “It’s the accepted thing to do,” he told the reporter.
With his guidance, CBS 5 Investigates found Caltrans’ secret “Pet Cemetery” in the woods not far above the town of Saratoga in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Looking over the cliff, they saw the familiar orange bags littering the hillside.
The CBS 5 Investigates team was accompanied by Beth Ward from the Humane Society of Silicon Valley and Mike Foltz, the society’s animal care manager.
“They definitely resemble the bags Caltrans uses in picking up remains from the sides of the roads and transporting them in their vehicles,” said Ward. “This is definitely meant not to be found.”
CBS 5 reporter Anna Werner climbed down the hill with Foltz, to find numerous animal bones. Foltz found and picked up more bones of all kinds.
“There definitely is a decomposing, kind of a rotting smell,” Foltz said.
Further on, he spotted a skull, and more. “I … it’s all over. Oh Lord! It’s everywhere,” he said. And everywhere, orange trash bags, all labeled with the ironic Caltrans slogan, ‘Care for California.’
Some bags had been torn open by animals and others were weighed down with dirt or asphalt chunks. Foltz said the dirt and asphalt made the bags heavier so they would slide further down into the ravine.
Animal skeletons and bones also littered the creek bed, some submerged in the water. Foltz says he’s never seen anything like it.
Why would Caltrans employees do this? The anonymous worker blames pressure from supervisors. “You pick it up and you get rid of it the fastest way possible,” he said. “I’ve actually had a supervisor when I said that I went to the Pet Cemetery, he said, ‘couldn’t you just throw it in the bushes?’ because that would be a shorter time to get rid of it.”
CBS 5 Investigates brought their findings to Caltrans. Spokesperson Lauren Wonder did admit, “A few individuals are saying that they do use this area to dispose of animal remains.” Wonder says one worker even confirmed that animal dumping has been going on at the site for years. “There was one that said that uh, it’s been probably a decade.” Wonder said. She claimed that wildlife was dumped there but pets weren’t.
“We do not dispose of pets,” she said. “We have proper procedures for that and our, our staff has assured us that they are following it.”
But CBS 5 Investigates found the body of one small dog, and other possible canine remains, and workers who did not want their names used confirmed they had dumped pet remains at the “cemetery”, even though the practice violates Caltrans’ stated policy of taking pets to the local Humane Society or SPCA.