Aurora Animal Control officer tries to bury skunk carcass in vacant lot next to condo complex

City defends 'standard operating procedure'

AURORA, Colo. - An Aurora animal control officer tried to bury a decomposing skunk in a vacant lot, as people living nearby watched in horror.

"It was like a Stephen King novel -- a Pet cemetery," said Gisele Benjamin, an Aurora resident who lives in the condo complex overlooking a small field in the city. "When I saw her take out the shovel, I knew what she was going to do."

Benjamin said last Thursday, she was watching from her condo window while the officer tried to dig holes in two locations in the field near Abilene Street and Ellsworth Avenue.

"She was looking around and drove away for two minutes," said Benjamin. "But she came back 10 minutes later. That's when I confronted her. And she told me she was burying an 'infectious, diseased animal.'"

After Benjamin complained, the officer ended up burying the skunk somewhere else.

The city of Aurora refused to do an on-camera interview with 7NEWS, but in an email, spokeswoman Lori MacKenzie confirmed that they had received a call about a dead skunk near Colfax and Laredo, about 3 miles away.

"The skunk was in very bad condition and was decomposing. The animal care officer took the skunk to a nearby vacant field near Ellsworth and Alameda to bury the animal. This is standard operating procedure when a wildlife carcass, (especially a skunk), is in extremely poor condition," said MacKenzie.

But 7NEWS asked, and found other jurisdictions take special precautions. Denver Animal control disposes of animal carcasses in a landfill, while Lakewood and Jefferson County take them to an animal shelter for cremation.

Public records show the Aurora field where the officer tried to bury the dead skunk is private property, owned by the Aurora Federal Credit Union. The credit union president said he had never approved letting the city bury animals on the property.

"Kids play over there, dogs play over there. People walk nearby," said Benjamin. "It just doesn't make sense."

In an email, MacKenzie stated that there is no "formal written policy" telling officers to dispose of decomposing animal remains in nearby fields.