Rules on burying your companion animal USA

My research indicates that the rules regarding burying your pet in the USA may well come down to the specific requirements of the city in which you live. I’d check with the city administrators. I’d certainly start there. For instance, the rules regarding Los Angeles and Chicago is that it is illegal to bury pets in your backyard.

Cat burial
Cat burial. Photo: in public domain.
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

On the other hand, is highly likely that the vast majority of companion animal owners who want to bury their pet in their yard do it either in ignorance of the law or knowingly in breach of the law for the simple fact that these laws are almost impossible to enforce and are rarely enforced if ever.

There are practical issues with respect to burying a companion animal in the backyard. It may prove dangerous to wildlife unless you make the burial deep enough. In fact some authorities may specify how deep the grave should be. If you are following the law check the requirements for the depth of the grave. It might be as much as 5 feet. This is to avoid the body being dug up by a scavenger. And there lies another issue.

Cats and dogs are euthanised with a potent anaesthetic agent: pentobarbital. This persists in the buried body for up to a year I am told by a veterinary pathologist. If a scavenger digs up and eats the remains of a cat or dog which has been buried in a shallow grave they may be poisoned by the anaesthetic. Also, a deceased animal may have died because of a nasty disease and the disease may survive burial for a while and be transmitted to a scavenging animal.

Cat cremation urn
Cat cremation urn. Photo: PoC.

The modern view is to cremate your companion animal. I would suggest a private cremation in order to ensure that you receive the ashes of your beloved animal and not ashes mixed with other animals. In America there apear to be three types of pet cremation: group, private and semi-private. The semi-private cremation is one in which a group of animals are cremated together but separated so they can provide you with your pet’s ashes. It depends how you feel about this at an emotional level. Personally, I go for the private cremation and I’m present throughout the entire time. It’s more expensive of course but you get peace of mind.

If you want to bury your companion animal the authorities where you live may well allow a burial in a designated area.

Apparently, most US states require that you bury your companion animal within 28 to 48 hours after the animal’s death. It is preferable not to bury your pet in a plastic bag because it takes a very long time for plastic to biodegrade. A biodegradable bag or box is better for the environment.

Although humans cannot be buried in a pet cemetery, in New York and New Jersey cremated human remains can be buried with their pets at a pet cemetery. I’m sure that in some local authorities a pet can be buried with their owner. Once again you have to check with the authorities and the cemetery.

Pet cemetery
Pet cemetery. Photo: PoC.

Normally, your companion animal will die before you. You can keep the ashes and then asked that the ashes be merged with yours when you are cremated. I’m sure that this is allowed pretty much everywhere but please check. You can ask your funeral director to organise this. In some US states people and animals can be buried together. For example, in Pennsylvania, my research indicates that the state allows cemeteries to have three sections: one for people, one for pets and an area for both. The state of Virginia also allows people and pets to be buried with each other as long as the animal was a companion of the person and they are placed in their own casket. Once again please check because this really is a jurisdiction by jurisdiction query.

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