Is it Against the Law to Bury a Dog in Your Yard?

by Nicholas DeMarino, Demand Media
    Depending on local laws, you may be able to bury your dog in your yard.

    Depending on local laws, you may be able to bury your dog in your yard.

    When your dog dies, you have to decide what to do with his remains. If you're considering burying your deceased pet in the backyard, make sure to look up state and local laws. Area veterinarians may be able to point you in the right direction.

    Saying Goodbye

    Whether it's expected or sudden, a dog's death can leave you confused and frustrated. One common coping mechanism is to bury the animal.
    "Officially and ritualistically, burying a family pet is probably a logical extension of the evolving nature of human-animal relationships," writes David D. Witt, Ph.D., of the University of Akron. "Especially since that relationship has increased in emotional intensity in the 20th century."
    If you go that route, you've got some important decisions to make, the first of which requires immediate attention.

    Burial Options

    If you want to bury your dog, you need to choose whether you want the body cremated. Some veterinarians offer a variety of services, including burial or disposal. Others have limited options.
    If you plan to bury the animal yourself, make sure the veterinarian knows ahead of time, as this may affect remains preparation.
    If they're available, full remains are less expensive than many cremation options, although you should consider the emotional impacts of handling your former pet in this condition.

    Law and Order

    Call your local city or town hall and ask whether you can bury your dog in your yard.
    Laws vary state to state, as well as by municipality. In some places, including most of Missouri, dead animals are treated as a form of solid waste, which creates cross jurisdictions between waste departments and agriculture and animal divisions.
    Other issues may involve your location, soil, proximity to water and the water table. Zoning rules may also play roles, as would existence of extant grave sites.

    Grave Matters

    One of the advantages of burying your pet in your yard is that you have a sense of closure and proximity to a physical reminder of the time you shared with your dog. As such, it may be worth working with local officials to reach a compromise if there are restrictions in your area.
    Make sure a dog burial site is the proper, legally prescribed distance from property lines, neighbors and water sources. The same goes for the minimum depth of the grave, which can vary greatly from site to site.
    You may also want to craft or commission a headstone for your pet, so you can visit the grave or put out flowers on the animal's birthday or holidays.

    About the Author

    Nicholas DeMarino is a journalist and former newspaper associate editor and reporter. His work has appeared in "The Arizona Republic," "The Billings Gazette," "San Antonio Current" and in other publications. He holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon.

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