Can you bury an animal in your backyard? Pet burial laws in the UK allow you to bury your pet’s remains at home. Thus, many pet owners choose to make their back garden their furry companions’ final resting place.
To them, it is a more personal way of laying their beloved pets to rest. Moreover, home pet burial is also a more practical and cost-effective option.
Whilst these are understandable reasons, it is not the safest nor most reliable choice. Back-garden pet burials not only endanger the lives of people but also harm the environment and wildlife.
Why Should You Be Wary of Back Garden Pet Burial?
If a family pet has been put to sleep, this process involves administering a highly potent anaesthetic agent called pentobarbital. It takes up to a year for this drug to dissolve from a deceased pet’s body.
Stray or wild animals might dig up back garden pet burials. They might scavenge on the pet’s remains and end up getting poisoned by the euthanasia solution.
Moreover, if your pet dies because of some disease, it will persist within his body even after death. Therefore, home pet burials may also cause the spread of viruses and diseases to wildlife and neighbourhood pets. For instance, it is known to cause parvovirus in dogs.
Another complication of back-garden pet burial is its potential to contaminate the nearby water sources.
Since any organic material will break down during decomposition, it will transmit bacteria and nutrients into the nearest water or soil. Therefore, it can sully the cleanliness and safety of the water supplies.
In some cases, pet burials are held near lakes, local reservoirs, and other water supplies. The possibility of disease transmission carried by the animal further heightens the hazard of water contamination.
Lessons Learned the Hard Way
Rachel Allevana, a veterinary anatomic pathologist, shared two heartbreaking aftermaths of home pet burials that she has witnessed first-hand. These accidents are eye-openers that can warn pet owners to choose the proper burial method for their deceased pets.
The first accident was about a family that euthanised their pet mouse, which they held a home burial for later on.
Unfortunately, the family’s pooch, a terrier, managed to uncover the rodent’s burial site and ate it. For almost a week, the dog became comatose and was in intensive care.
The other case of a home pet burial accident involved two farm dogs. They found bones from a cow that had been euthanised months prior. This one ended more tragically as one dog died whilst the other was severely sick for many days.
What Are the Other Options Available Other Than Home Pet Burial?
Although these accidents from home pet burials seldom happen, the effects could be fatal. If this method of laying a deceased pet to rest is not a safe option, then what is the best way to bury a dead pet?
Pet owners are suggested to consider other alternatives such as professional pet cremations or donating their deceased pets to vet pathologists.
Is it better to cremate or bury a pet? Getting a pet cremated is far safer than burying him in your back garden provided that you choose a licenced and reputable pet crematorium.
Since the whole cremation process is handled by experts, it evades the environmental and health risks that are prone to happen in home burials. These options offer pet owners a wide range of options that they could choose from.
Donating Pet Remains to Experts
Donating your deceased pet to an expert for post-mortem examinations will help determine the cause of death.
Additionally, they may also use the samples and information they have gathered from the autopsy for research purposes. It is going to be utilised to develop knowledge regarding diseases and treatments of animals and people.
Donated pets supply veterinary pathologists with valuable information on how a certain disease may affect the body. Since the pet’s veterinarian is also informed of the autopsy findings, they can validate the diagnosis.
It is extremely significant because they can provide closure for the grieving owners due to their pet’s passing.
How Much Does a Pet Burial Cost?
Burying your beloved pet dog or cat in a pet cemetery can be expensive. It may cost between £300 and £750. Pet cremations are far less costly than cemetery pet burials. Note that the price will depend on the type of cremation and the size of your departed pet.
Communal cremation costs from £40 to £100, whilst the fee for private pet cremation or individual cremation is approximately£75–£200.
Are you wondering if there are fees to get your pet’s ashes returned? The answer is, usually, pet cremation companies will charge around £100–£150 for the transportation fee.
4 Crucial Regulations to Follow for Home Pet Burials
If you do not have the means to bury your pet’s remains in a pet cemetery or have it cremated by a pet cremation service, you may opt to bury your pet at home.
However, make sure to follow the regulations specified for home pet burials by the Britain and North Ireland Legislation.
1. Check With the Vet for Hazardous Dangers in Your Pet’s Remains.
Do this step before preparing for a back-garden pet burial. The vet must ensure that your pet’s remains are not hazardous to human health. If they refuse to release your pet’s remains due to risky reasons, a written explanation can be requested from them.
The Association of Private Pet Cemeteries & Crematoria (APPCC) and DEFRA or the Environment Agency will review your case and help you find a reasonable solution.
2. Back Garden Pet Burial Should Be Done on a Land You Own.
Burying your pet on rented land or public space is considered illegal. Regulations also state that deceased pets must be laid to rest in the same dwelling they have lived. So home pet burial on a friend’s property is forbidden if you do not own a back garden.
3. Keep the Home Pet Burial Away from Water Sources.
Deceased pets leak body fluids once they die. Thus, making sure that they do not come into contact with any bodies of water is imperative to prevent contamination.
The Environment Agency outlines that there should be approximately a 1-metre clearance between the bottom of the burial hole and the top of the water table.
Moreover, pet owners should take care that the burial hole is deep enough so that the deceased pet will be covered with at least 1 metre of soil. With this in mind, look for an elevated and dry area in your back garden for your pet’s burial hole.
4. Mind Other Dangers When Digging a Hole for Home Pet Burial.
Check with the authorities for any utility pipes or cables that might be present below your chosen gravesite.
Taking this step prevents you from accidentally striking a gas pipe or a sewage line whilst digging a burial hole for your departed furry friend.
Failure to follow home pet burial regulations may result in pet owners facing a maximum fine of £5,000, three months of imprisonment, or both.
How Quickly Do Deceased Pets Need to Be Buried?
Once a pet crosses the rainbow bridge, decomposition sets in within 2 to 3 hours. Hence, burial should be done as soon as possible.
In some cases, a pet’s death is so sudden that its owners do not have time to prepare in advance, which could lead to delays in burial. If this problem arises, storing the body below 39.2 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) is recommended to slow down decomposition.
You can place your deceased pet in a freezer if you have one. Before doing so, make sure to place him temporarily on a blanket or a towel in a sealed plastic bag. It keeps body fluids from leaking into the freezer.
Arrange his body in a slightly curled sleeping position for easier handling and positioning during the actual pet burial.
Or transfer his body to the basement and use dry ice to maintain the room’s low temperature. Cranking up the air conditioner in a cool room is another plausible solution too. Alternatively, try reaching out to veterinary clinics in your area and ask if you can use their mortuary refrigerator.
For big pets such as large and giant dog breeds, an immediate funeral is advised. Delaying the burial makes it difficult to move them when the rigour mortis sets in.
3 Tips for a Safe and Proper Home Pet Burial
When burying deceased pets, pawrents need to keep in mind potential environmental and health hazards. Here are some pointers to remember when laying your furry pal to rest in your back garden:
1. Use Biodegradable Materials.
Do not bury your pet wrapped in plastic. Non-biodegradable materials significantly slow down decomposition and decay. Some bodies of deceased pets were found to be intact in plastic bags after several years in the ground.
So take final care of your pet by wrapping him in biodegradable material. This can be in the form of a wicker, a woollen rug, a cotton towel, or a cardboard rug.
Double-check what materials they are made of. Some fabrics contain a mix of synthetic materials like polyester, which takes years to decompose.
Wooden pet burial boxes made from pine, jute, willow, and bamboo are good options as well. They provide your pet with added protection against stray or wild animals who might attempt to dig out his remains.
To find a high-quality pet burial box, choose a product that has certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). This signifies that the burial box was sustainably sourced and not illegally harvested.
Also, check the package for information if the wood product was treated with potentially toxic chemicals like formaldehyde and polyurethane. These harmful substances may contaminate the soil.
2. Bury Your Pet at a Reasonable Depth.
The rule of thumb when digging a grave for a deceased pet is the hole should be at least three feet deep in light soil and two feet deep in heavy soil. It allows healthy decomposition to take place whilst being deep enough to prevent stray dogs and wildlife from scavenging the remains.
Take note that the additional depth of the pet must be considered as well. For instance, your deceased pet lying on its side measures 9 inches in height. Factor in this measurement when calculating the depth of his grave.
When choosing a resting place for your furry pal, avoid spots in your back garden that might be excavated in the future, such as flowerbeds and areas close to fruit trees.
3. Place a Sturdy Marker on Your Departed Pet’s Grave.
Beware that scavenging animals roaming in your area may scent out your deceased dog.
Deter them from disturbing his final resting place by positioning a heavy plant pot or a solid memorial stone slab on it. Some pet owners place chicken wire on top of a partially covered grave before completely filling it with soil.
FAQs About Home Pet Burials
1. How Deep Should You Bury Your Pet at Home?
The recommended depth to bury your pet at home is approximately two feet in heavier soils and three feet in lighter soils.
How deep you dig your furry pal’s grave is a serious matter. If it is too shallow, you run the risk of scavenging animals decimating his remains, which could lead to the spreading of disease.
Moreover, an insufficiently deep burial hole will be unable to fully cover decaying odours from the grave.
2. Should You Bury Your Pet in a Box?
Burying your pet in a box is encouraged as it protects him against stray and scavenging animals. Just make sure that his burial box is completely made of an environmentally friendly biodegradable material for proper decomposition.
3. How Long Does It Take for a Buried Pet to Decompose?
The time it takes for a buried pet to decompose may greatly vary as several factors influence it such as the soil quality, daily temperature, and weather.
However, generally, the completion of pet decomposition can take at least six months to fifteen years. In some cases, it may even go for longer because deceased pets are placed in non-biodegradable items such as plastic bags or polyester towels.
4. Do Foxes Dig Up Buried Pets?
Foxes do dig up buried pets. For this reason, we strongly advise placing a solid and durable marker on top of your furry pal’s grave, such as a big plant pot or a weatherproof gravestone.
Placing chicken wires around and on top of his casket before covering it with soil also helps keep away foxes and other scavengers.
No matter how many times it happens, losing a pet is a painful experience to go through. Thus, many pet owners opt to bury their beloved four-legged companions in their back gardens to keep them close.
Following the regulations set by the UK legislation for home pet burial ensures that your furry friend is laid to rest respectfully and safely. It also prevents environmental and health risks such as water contamination and the spreading of animal diseases.
Saying goodbye to a departed pet is never easy, so give yourself time and space to grieve. Setting up a pet memorial can help ease the pain of losing your beloved furry friend.