When You Have to Say Goodbye, How to Properly Bury a Pet

How to bury your cat, dog, or other pet after they’ve passed

The death of a pet is always a hard time and can be difficult to manage. Making decisions about how to take care of your pet after they have passed away can put added stress on your and the pet’s family. That’s why we’ve created this article as a resource for you to use if you choose to bury your pet close to your home. Here are several things you should consider if you want to bury your pet at home. 

Step 2: Choices

Although it is not something that you should dwell on to much, having an idea as to what you want to happen at the end of a pets life is a good thing. Often their end can be fast, like Bonds, and you just don’t have a lot of time when it happens. So giving forethought to the possibility and having a plan to deal with it is prudent.

There may not be to many options open to you. If you live in a city you can’t just bury them anywhere. Many times if a Veterinarian is there to put them to sleep they can take care of the remains. It is my understanding that many of them have the animals incinerated. That would be preferable to just putting them in a dumpster. After all this was your friend, not some leftover meatloaf.

But do some research and have something in mind, just in case.

I don’t want to make recommendations here. It is totally going to depend on you and your circumstances and on any of the other people involved as to what you might do. The option I am offering assistance with in this Instructable is burial. Because I do have the land and live in the rurals, for me it is an option that makes the best sense. And it involves far less cost for me. Basically a DIY solution.

The pictures of Urns for pets are from Amazon’s web site. They have a very big selection of them. So, thank you to them for that.

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Laws Vary Significantly

The laws and regulations governing the removal or disposal of your pet, and whether it's legal to bury a dead pet on your property, can differ by state, county or municipality. Therefore, before attempting a pet burial on land you legally own, you should fully research and understand all laws pertaining to your property.

The laws governing the disposal of dead animals in Washington state not only specify what constitutes a "dead animal" (fish and other primarily aquatic animals are not included), but also dictates how quickly the pet's owner, or the owner of the property on which the dead animal is found, must properly dispose of the corpse (within 72 hours).

This Washington state law also mandates not only the approved methods owners can use for a dead pet's/livestock's final bodily disposition (such as landfilling, incineration, composting, rendering, burial, or some other approved form) but, in the case of burial, specifies how/where residents may legally bury their animals.

Among other requirements, a minimum of 91.44 centimeters (3 feet) of soil, covering “every part” of the animal, is required, and the burial spot must be more than 30.48 meters (100 feet) “from any well, spring, stream or other surface waters.”

In Michigan, residents generally must dispose of dead pets/animals "not intended for human food" far more quickly (within 24 hours), but may legally bury animals at the less-backbreaking depth of (at least) 60.96 centimeters (2 feet) under the ground's "natural surface."

Among other requirements, Michigan law also stipulates that residents must separate individual animal gravesites by a minimum of 76.2 centimeters (2.5 feet).

Missouri's Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which regulates the disposal of dead pets, livestock, and other animals, considers these remains "solid waste" and views on-site burial as the least-desirable option due to the risk of water pollution.

Those who insist on burying a pet on their property might still encounter difficulties complying with state law, however, because the Missouri DNR also requires the following, among other things, for such burial sites:

  • At least 15.24 meters (50 feet) from property lines
  • At least 91.44 meters (300 feet) from an existing neighboring residence
  • At least 91.44 meters (300 feet) from any wells, surface water intake structures, public drinking water-supply lakes, springs, or sinkholes

There is significant variance among the laws and regulations governing the burial of a dead pet or animal on private property. Before attempting a pet burial, you should fully research and understand all laws pertaining to your property.

Using Ground Thawing Blankets

Ground thawing blankets are specifically designed to thaw frozen ground in just hours. This is convenient for professional diggers, but it can benefit homeowners as well, especially those who have to inevitably deal with burying their pets during winter. 

The use of ground thawing blankets has become popular in recent years because of its reliability and ease of use. The blanket is simply left on the ground for several hours (usually 12-18 hours) before digging.

Depending on how deep the frost is or if the conditions are favorable, a ground thawing blanket is able to thaw 10 inches deep every 4-5 hours.

What You Need to Bury Your Dog

When you have ascertained that it is legal to bury your dog in your backyard according to your local and state laws, it’s time for you to prepare yourself with the necessary supplies. There are several ways to go about this and each approach has different costs.

Things you may need to bury a dog include:

  • A biodegradable burial “container”.
  • A shovel.
  • Any favorite toys to be buried with your dog.
  • A grave marker if desired.

Please note that a biodegradable pet casket is best for the environment, and can be purchased from a vet clinic, pet crematorium, or online. Some people utilize a cardboard box in a pinch if their region does not require an approved pet casket to be used.

However, if you want to make the least damage to the environment and your community, consider a pet casket that ticks all the environment-friendly check-boxes. The same applies to other things, such as a pet memorial stone, for example. If you’re burying a dog in your backyard, you’ll want something to remember him by but also ensure not to do any damage to the surroundings or your future pets that will be around.

RELATED: The Rainbow Bridge – What to Do When Your Dog Dies

Why you shouldn’t bury your pet in the backyard?

Even when home pet burial is legal in your state, you may not want to bury your pet in your backyard if you aren’t in your forever home. You are unlikely to exhume a pet when you move, but it may be unpleasant to leave them when relocating. A permanent burial in a pet cemetery may be preferable.

Today Americans are much more likely to live in several different homes during their life time and even as you get older you may feel the need to downsize. Although there is nothing wrong with leaving your pets in the yard when you leave, you won’t be able to visit the site if you feel the urge in the future.

A pet cemetery gives you this option for many years to come as they are very unlikely to be redeveloped or made inaccessible to the public.

how long can you keep a dead pet in the freezer?

A normal freezer can keep its contents frozen for as long as needed. However, if you want to preserve your pet’s body for months, consider paying for a private refrigeration unit or ask some restaurant equipment companies if they have one spare that might fit your needs.

Step 6: In Bonds Case —

In Bonds case I have decided to take the extra step of putting a big rock to mark his spot. He was just to special in to many ways to not have a semi permanent marker. I am planing on either painting it or maybe even engraving it in the future. I just have to figure out how to do it. It’s a nice big piece of granite with a flat face.

While I was buying bedding plants for the garden some lilies caught my eye and I thought it would be fun to plant them around his rock. I have had lilies like these before and they come back every year for what seams like forever. So now every spring they will come back and add a spark of color to the grass and his rock. As if to say, “hey, remember me?” So, who knows, for years to come, after everyone else has forgotten, the lilies will remember and be there in the spring. Bond was born in the spring, and he died in the spring and now his flowers will bloom in the spring.

Although he spent most of his life with my daughter, he was born here, not far from where he is now. And his mom, Juliette, that feral cat that came in from the cold is here also, just a little ways away.

Tips

  • If burial is not possible, you can have your cat cremated and scatter its ashes somewhere.

    Thanks! Helpful 2 Not Helpful

  • Check before you scatter the ashes; it might not be legal where you live. However, maybe you can keep the ashes in a box and keep them somewhere safe.

    Thanks! Helpful 2 Not Helpful

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What Happens When You Bury an Animal?

Though it may strike some as a macabre question, many owners are genuinely curious what happens to their pet after burial.

Basically (and without going into unnecessarily upsetting detail), your pet’s body will break down (decompose) over time in the ground. A variety of organisms will consume his remains and convert them into their own tissues.

In a way, your dog will become part of the plants and tiny organisms living in the area — a thought that gives some owners a small measure of comfort.

The pace at which this occurs will vary, but it’ll typically take several months for the process to conclude.

Weather conditions like high heat and humidity will increase the rate of decomposition, while cold temperatures and drought may prolong the process.

If your pet’s remains are encased in a blanket or coffin, the decomposition process will take a bit longer. But in time, your pet’s body will wither down into nothing more than bone. Any of the items you buried with him (such as blankets or a favorite toy) will likely last longer than his remains will. However, these things will eventually break down too.

How deep should you bury your pet?

It is generally recommended that all animal burials include at least two feet of soil covering the remains as this will prevent scavengers from digging up and scattering your pet’s remains. You should also avoid placing any items on top of the burial site because some animals (especially dogs) may find them and start to dig.

The Burial

You can always hold a funeral service if you wish to give closure to family members who are grieving. If you have children who are showing interest in participating in the service, let them. You can encourage them to write letters or make cards for the deceased beloved pet.

Saying goodbye to a pet will not be easy but at least you can take comfort in the fact that everyone wants to remember him/her in a good way. You can even let people take photos or videos of the event while sharing words of comfort and wonderful stories about your dog.

If you want to be left alone with your dog for the last time, allow yourself. Go and pet your beloved dog and just share your heartfelt sentiments.

Once the burial is done, you can go on and mark the grave. You can place decorative stones on top of the grave or plant a tree. Decorative stones like this Garden Pet Paw Print Stepping Stone will not only help mark the grave but will also add some appeal to the area. 

There’s also the option to put a memorial stone there for your pet. Some are beautifully designed and carry a lovely poem for your beloved furry friend, like this Paw Print Pet Memorial Stone.

For many people, burying their dog is the same as burying a member of the family. It’s not an easy thing to do, but we hope we’ve been able to provide you with the knowledge necessary to do this properly if it takes place in the winter.

Where to Bury Your Pet

  • If you've got a garden or backyard, you may want to bury them at home. I have a beautiful national park across the street, and I decided to bury my cat there. If you do this where you live, make sure you are not violating any rules in doing so.
  • Choose somewhere you can visit easily. It may be a lovely thought to bury your pet at the top of the highest hill, but that will likely prevent you from visiting as often as you'd like to.
  • Choose somewhere that makes you smile. Don't choose some dreary location that will depress you every time you visit. I chose a place with a lovely view for her, and even though that may sound strange, I like to think she appreciated it.
  • Some places have restrictions on burying pets in public places. I'm fortunate that this country only dictates that you have to be a certain distance from a water supply. If you think it may be illegal to bury your pet in a public park, you should contact your parks and recreation office to determine what you're allowed to do.

my cat died what do i do with the body?

If you don’t have time to get your pet buried or cremated right away, then you can put it in the freezer for a few days (if there is room). Also, call around to local vets and ask if they know of any quick and affordable ways of getting rid of dead pets. You can follow the steps above to burry your cat.

Considerations for Burying Your Pet

If you are going to try to bury your pet, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Cremation: Even if you plan to bury your pet, consider having them cremated first. Cremation incinerates the pet’s body so that the harmful parts of decomposition will not take place. Cremains are much safer to bury, and they will not contaminate the environment or harm other animals.
  • Depth: Make sure you bury your pet deep enough that other animals and floodwaters cannot unearth them. If you have not cremated your pet, plan to bury them at least 3 feet deep.
  • Utility lines: Call the relevant authorities to inquire about utility lines before you bury your pet. You don’t want to end up striking a sewage line, electric line or gas pipe as you dig the grave.
  • Location: Spend time thinking about where you want to bury your pet. It’s best to choose a high, dry place if you can to avoid water contamination. An elevated burial site can help keep floodwaters from exposing your pet and prevent groundwater from leaching contaminants into the environment.

What is the proper way to bury a dog?

How To Bury A Pet Well

Choose an area set aside for ornamental plants, not food crops. … Put your other pets away until afterwards and do not let them see the burial. Dig a hole at least one metre or three feet deep. Wrap your pet’s body in something biodegradable like a cotton pillowcase or woollen rug.

Can you plant a tree over a dead pet (dog, cat, rabbit)?

In my family, we have always had this tradition as it not only marked the graves of Tessie, Fern, and Todd but it has also given them an eco-friendly legacy that just added to their natural burial. Of course, you can only do this on land you own or when you have permission to do so.

However, if you plan to have your pet cremated and then you want to plant a tree with their cremains, you may have an issue. Cremated remains are often full of harmful sodium and don’t have the correct Ph level for plants to thrive.

The best way around this is to neutralize the ashes by diluting them with soil that carries the right types of nutrients. You can even get special eco-friendly urns that do this for you. You see my suggestions below.

Reader Success Stories

  • Nett J.

Dec 1, 2021

    Nett J. Dec 1, 2021

    “This article has helped me prepare for my dog passing away soon. My dog is hiding in the bathroom, he wants to be alone. He has never done that before, so I know it’s almost time for my beloved little Scrappy to go to doggy heaven. As I cry writing this.” …” more

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