Losing a furry friend can be a difficult time. Our dogs often become important members of the family and it can be tough to make the decisions that come with a pet’s passing. One of the things you must consider is what to do with your pet’s body.
These days, there are many options for pet burial, and you might be wondering which is best for your family. Many pet owners wonder. Can I bury my dog in my backyard? If I choose to bury my pet myself, what’s the safest and best method? Home burial is a popular, private, and safe way to honor your pet.
In this article, we answer these questions and more to help you make an informed decision about how to lay your pup to rest.
Is It Legal To Bury My Dog In My Backyard?
In most states, backyard burial of pets is legal, but you’ll want to look into your state’s policies to be sure. If your state allows burial, you can also find more specifics about the best way to ensure your methods are safe. Most states have guidelines about where to bury, how deep to dig, and in what kind of encasement you should place your pet.
Expert Tip: Contact a local vet or read your state and city’s policies before making any decisions. Additionally, if you belong to a Home Owners Association or other residential organization, you may want to check your neighborhood’s policies too.
State by State:
This information is intended as a guide. For the most up-to-date and local information, please check with your local vet clinic for specifics:
- Alabama (Legal, 2 ft minimum depth)
- Alaska (Legal, but challenging due to frozen earth)
- Arizona (Mostly illegal, check with city ordinances in your area)
- Arkansas (Illegal, schedule cremation or other disposals within 12 hours)
- California (Illegal, but often not enforced in rural areas)
- Colorado (Legal, as long as the pet has no contagious infections. Other restrictions apply. Check with your vet to clarify.)
- Connecticut (Legal, with appropriate burial depth)
- Delaware (Legal, away from water sources)
- Florida (Legal, as long as the pet has no contagious infections)
- Georgia (Legal, with appropriate burial depth)
- Hawaii (Legal, with an advisory to check with local homeowner’s association first)
- Idaho (Legal, with appropriate burial depth)
- Illinois (Legal, as long as the pet has no contagious infections)
- Indiana (Legal, with appropriate burial depth)
- Iowa (Legal, with an advisory to check with local homeowner’s association first)
- Kansas (Legal, if poses no environmental threat)
- Kentucky (Legal, with appropriate burial depth and range of water sources)
- Louisiana (Legal, as long as the pet has no contagious infections and appropriate burial depth is achieved)
- Maine (Legal, as long as the pet has no contagious infections and appropriate burial depth is achieved)
- Maryland (Legal, with appropriate burial depth)
- Massachusetts (Town laws vary but are generally legal. Check with the local vet)
- Michigan (Legal, away from water sources)
- Minnesota (Legal, as long as the pet has no contagious infections and appropriate burial depth is achieved)
- Mississippi (Legal, with appropriate burial depth)
- Missouri (Legal, 300ft away from neighbors and water sources)
- Montana (Legal with appropriate burial depth)
- Nebraska (Legal with appropriate burial depth and away from water sources)
- Nevada (Legal, with appropriate burial depth New Hampshire Legal, away from water sources)
- New Jersey (Legal, with appropriate burial depth)
- New Mexico (Legal, pending homeowner’s association approval)
- New York (No law, check with your local vet clinic)
- North Carolina (Legal, with appropriate burial depth and within 24 hours of passing)
- North Dakota (Legal, if no infectious diseases are present and with appropriate burial depth)
- Ohio (Legal, advises checking with local authorities)
- Oklahoma (Legal, with appropriate burial depth)
- Oregon (Legal, with appropriate burial depth)
- Pennsylvania (Legal within 48 hrs of passing)
- Rhode Island (No law, check with your local vet clinic)
- South Carolina (Legal, with appropriate burial depth)
- South Dakota (Legal, with appropriate burial depth and within 48 hours of passing)
- Tennessee (Legal, with appropriate burial depth and away from water sources)
- Texas (Legal, with appropriate burial depth)
- Utah (Legal, within 48 hours of passing)
- Vermont (No law, check with a local vet clinic)
- Virginia (Legal, within 48 hours of passing)
- Washington (No law, check with a local vet clinic)
- West Virginia (Legal, with appropriate burial depth)
- Wisconsin (Legal in some counties, check with local vet)
- Wyoming (Legal, but some areas require approval. Check with a local vet.)
How Long Can You Keep A Dog Before Burial?
Most states ask that your pet is buried 24-48 hours after death if you plan to bury them yourself. If you are holding on to your pet for cremation or burial in a pet cemetery, you may be able to wait longer.
Either way, you’ll want to make sure you have a plan in place that allows you to lay your animal to rest in a timely manner to avoid health concerns or potential decay.
Can You Smell A Buried Dog?
You may begin to smell a dog about 10 hours after death. Depending on the temperature, this process could go faster or slower. If you are concerned about your animal’s smell before you are able to bury them, you might choose to wrap them completely in plastic and place them in the freezer to contain the smell and slow the process of decay.
Once your dog is buried, you should be able to avoid any scent by following proper burial guidelines. Make sure you choose an environmentally-friendly biodegradable casket for your pet. These can be purchased or you can use a shoe box, wooden box, or cardboard box.
Expert Tip: It’s a good idea to tape well around the edges of the box to contain as much scent as possible. Plastic bags or wraps are not advised, as they can take years to decompose.
How Deep Should I Bury My Dog?
It is also important to make sure you bury your pet deep enough. Most states require around 3-5 feet of burial, from the top of your pet’s body. If you live in a place with heavy rainfall, it’s smart to bury your pet deeper. Burying your pet too close to the surface could lead to stronger smells.
It can also open the grave to disturbance from erosion or scavengers. Whether to protect your pet from fellow dogs or other wildlife, burying deeper can avoid the risk of your pet’s grave being dug up, which can be deeply upsetting. It’s also important to note that some medications may linger long after a pet is deceased.
Drugs from euthanasia, chemotherapy, etc can pose a threat to wildlife or other pets. Check with your vet to make sure you are making the right decisions for your environment and complying with local laws. Most states also have recommendations to bury your pet far from any water sources, to avoid contamination.
Bear in mind that for some people, the experience of digging a grave is cathartic and serves as a last meaningful act of love for their pets. However, it is also emotionally and physically taxing. Make sure to think through which option will be right for you.
What Are My Other Options For Pet Burial?
There are many other ways to give your pet a loving send-off, but most are more expensive than the yard burial option. Pet cemetery burial or cremation can range from $50-5,000 depending on the location and additional services are chosen.
For around $75-200, cremation is the preferred method for many dog owners. Your local animal clinic can help you get in touch with a provider. You may choose a box or urn as a keepsake of your animal if you wish. This can be a great, inexpensive way to memorialize your pet in your own home.
Some providers will even infuse your pet’s ashes into a remembrance stone, that can be placed in your yard to honor them, without requiring a burial.
If you choose to bury your dog in a pet cemetery, the price tag is often between $1500 and $5000. This can be a great way to know the burial is completed safely and securely, and you will be able to visit your furry friend whenever you like.
In some cases, you may be able to have your dog buried with you, either cremated or in their own casket. These regulations vary by state and should be researched for your specific case.
No matter which option you choose for your dog’s body, there are many other ways to memorialize your pet, wherever or however they are laid to rest. Many online or local artists specialize in a variety of pet-related services, such as paintings, clay paw prints, look-alike stuffed animals, and more.
These can be excellent ways to celebrate your pet’s life in positive ways. Many artists even donate some of their proceeds to local animal shelters.
Losing a beloved pet can be a challenging time, but deciding on the best way to part with your pup doesn’t have to be an extra stressor. Backyard burial can be an intimate, low-cost way to honor your pet, and provided you follow guidelines from your local authorities and veterinarian will be safe and long-lasting.
Whatever method you choose can surely send your pet off with the love and dignity worthy of man’s best friend.