It’s heartbreaking when your dog finally crosses the rainbow bridge.
But as their dog parent, you have to take care of what they’ve left behind.
It’s understandable that you’d want them to be close to you after they die.
But is it really okay to bury your dog in the backyard?
In this article you’ll discover:
- Is dog burial legal or illegal in your state?
- 9 risks of burying your dog on your property.
- Some alternatives if you don’t want to bury your pooch in the yard.
- 5 tips on what to do if you plan on burying your dog in your backyard.
- And much much more…
Table of contents
- Is it legal to bury your dog in your backyard?
- People also ask:
- 50 states in which it’s legal or illegal to bury your dog in the backyard
- 9 risks of burying your dog in the backyard
- #1: Scavengers might up dig their body
- #2: It’s hazardous to your health
- #3: Water contamination
- #4: Their body might get eroded or flooded
- #5: They’ll be left there
- #6: It’s illegal in some states in the US
- #7: It could be a risk for the community
- #8: Pentobarbital poisoning
- #9: Contagious diseases
- Bonus: Emotional stress
- 5 tips on what to do if you plan to bury your dog in the backyard
Is it legal to bury your dog in your backyard?
It’s legal to bury your dog in your backyard in most states in the US. However, you must still check with your local veterinarian and homeowners association for the specific laws and regulations you have to comply with when burying your dog on your property.
People also ask:
50 states in which it’s legal or illegal to bury your dog in the backyard
|State||Is it legal to bury your dog in the backyard|
|Colorado||No (in some parts) (Source)|
|Massachusetts||Yes (Varying) (Source)|
|New Hampshire||Yes (Source)|
|New Jersey||Yes (Source)|
|New Mexico||Yes (Source)|
|New York||N/A (No state laws)|
|North Carolina||Yes (Source)|
|North Dakota||Yes (Source)|
|Rhode Island||N/A (No state regulations)|
|South Carolina||Yes (Source)|
|South Dakota||Yes (Source)|
|Utah||Yes (Regulation applies) (Source)|
|Vermont||N/A (No state regulations)|
|West Virginia||Yes (Source)|
|Wisconsin||No (In some parts) (Source)|
9 risks of burying your dog in the backyard
#1: Scavengers might up dig their body
Your dog’s dead body could resurface again. Even when they’ve already died months before.
And this is one of the many risks of burying your dog in the backyard.
When your furbaby dies, you don’t want to be distraught all over again.
For instance, seeing their decomposing body dug up.
By other dogs or scavenger animals who prey on carcasses. Like the coyotes, raccoons, and foxes.
But how can these animals find your dog’s body when they’re already buried?
This happens when the smell of their decaying body can still be detected.
Because the grave is not deep enough.
If the grave’s too shallow, the gases your dog’s body emits when decomposing can still come out of the soil they were buried in.
There are many cases in the US where dog parents claim foxes dig up their dog/cat’s body.
They find the burial ground of their pooch dug up.
With their decomposing bodies exposed and mangled.
Note: Don’t bother with the foxes. Only animal pest control professionals are allowed to kill or trap them.
Here’s how a fox can dig your yard.
Trivia: Foxes are opportunistic feeders. They eat other animal’s dead bodies. But aside from that, they also eat their own kind.
They’re known to steal pups and kits from another fox den to feast on when they’re hungry. This behavior is called infanticide.
#2: It’s hazardous to your health
Your health could also be at risk if you bury your dog in the backyard.
For instance, you don’t bury them deep enough.
If some parts of their body are still showing, flies or other insects will come near it.
A decomposing body has a lot of bacteria and pathogens.
So when these insects get in contact with a decaying body, they’d carry the bacterias on their legs.
They may land on any uncovered food in your home. Making you and your family exposed to these bacterias.
This could cause you to have certain illnesses. Like salmonellosis and gastrointestinal problems.
And don’t forget the ‘smell of death’.
The decomposing body of your dog will start to produce a bad smell. And this is caused by substances known as cadaverine and putrescine.
These break down the fatty acids in your dog’s decaying body.
And when you smell too much of it, it can cause nausea and vomiting.
#3: Water contamination
Burying your dog’s body in the backyard may risk water contamination.
That’s why many states in the US require dog parents to bury their beloved furbabies 100 ft away from any water source.
So why is that?
It’s because your dog’s decaying body emits toxins that could contaminate water.
Especially if they’re not buried properly.
According to DOH, this could cause gastrointestinal illnesses that upset the stomach.
Not only to humans. But also to wild animals who would drink the infected water.
#4: Their body might get eroded or flooded
Is your place prone to erosion and flooding?
If yes, think twice about burying your dog’s body in the backyard.
This is because if you don’t bury them properly, they’re at risk of being washed away. In case there’s a typhoon and heavy flooding in your area.
Their burial spot could also be eroded.
More so if you’re living in earthquake-prone states like California and Alaska.
#5: They’ll be left there
You want to bury your dog in the backyard because it’s a place that’s familiar to them.
But nothing is permanent in this world.
You’ll grow, and with this comes changes.
You may want to move to another country after some time. Or change residence that will be more fit for your family.
But if you bury your dog in the backyard now, they’ll be left alone there when you move away.
It’s hard to think that you’ll not be able to visit your beloved pooch’s body again.
You’ll always think that they’re far, far away from you.
And that’s heartbreaking.
Warning: If you’re living in a rental, burying your dog in the backyard is prohibited.
#6: It’s illegal in some states in the US
Another risk you could face is legal issues.
Back then, it’s fine to flush your goldfish in the toilet when it died. Or bury your cat in a box in your mom’s garden.
But now, burying animals in the backyard is more complicated.
It’s even illegal in some places in the country.
And even if your state allows this, you must still get permits.
You should also follow regulations on how to properly bury your dog’s body.
Here are some examples:
In Alabama or Michigan, you need to bury your dog within 24 hours. Other states require 48 hours.
The depth of their graves also varies with each state.
Some require bodies to be buried 2 ft deep. While others should be at least 4 ft.
And lastly, if you mistakenly buried your poor pooch in a property that isn’t yours…
The owner of that lot can dig them up. And put them in someplace else.
Now, that would be chaotic.
Your neighbor reporting you shouldn’t be one of your problems.
#7: It could be a risk for the community
If your dog unexpectedly dies, it’s understandable if you don’t know what to do.
You still can’t let go of your pooch. That’s why you decided to bury them in your backyard.
But since you’re not aware of the regulations in your state, you just dig up a hole.
Not knowing that there are gas and water lines underneath it.
This is another health risk of burying your dog in the backyard.
You’ll not be only endangering yourself, but the whole community, too.
If you accidentally hit a pipe of a gas line, everyone must evacuate the area.
Because this can cause an explosion.
#8: Pentobarbital poisoning
Another risk of burying your dog in the backyard is poisoning other animals.
And that could include your other dogs, too.
What could be the reason for this?
Poisoning could happen if your dog died from euthanasia.
You see, when dogs are euthanized, veterinarians use pentobarbital. (A medication for seizures.)
When dogs are administered with this, their hearts and brains will stop working. And this happens within just a few minutes.
It’s a painless way for them to die.
Hence, why it’s also referred to by vets as the ‘beautiful death’.
But the effect of this drug doesn’t end when your dog’s heart stops beating.
An investigation shows that this drug becomes more concentrated as years go by. Even when their body has already decayed.
This was proven when cases of dogs dying started to show up.
And in their autopsy, the results showed that it’s caused by pentobarbital poisoning.
Here’s one of those cases:
In 2008, a horse died because of a major dose of euthanasia. The body wasn’t properly disposed of.
And shortly after that, 2 dogs of the horse’s owner also died.
But the horror didn’t just stop there.
After 2 years, 2 more dogs who belong to a nearby property were also poisoned. This is when they scavenged through the horse’s carcass.
(Horse hair was found in their stomach.)
Can you believe that? 2 whole years after…
That’s how strong the drug is.
Unfortunately, 1 of the dogs died. While the other dog had critical symptoms but recovered the next day.
In the dead dog’s autopsy, they found the cause of death was pentobarbital poisoning.
Not only that…
Other wildlife animals were also suspected to have died. And they were just dragged off to different locations by scavengers.
This is the reason why some states prohibit burying animals on private property.
More so if they’re euthanized.
Did you know?
Chihuahuas are the second most euthanized dogs in the US, while Pitbulls are first. Learn more about this by reading this article.
#9: Contagious diseases
Did your dog die from contagious diseases?
If yes, then it isn’t allowed for you to bury them in the backyard.
This is because you’re risking other animals, especially the pups, in having diseases. Like parvovirus.
This could potentially cause an outbreak because it’s airborne.
And it can affect many dogs in your area.
Bonus: Emotional stress
The last risk you’ll possibly face is emotional stress. Just in case any situation mentioned above happens.
For instance, it’s gruesome to see the grave of your beloved pooch being dug up.
Worse is if wild animals have destroyed their body. And you’d have to see the aftermath.
You and your family could be traumatized.
And for the last straw, it’s difficult to face law charges because you violated something.
You and your family are grieving.
At this time you just want peace of mind.
But mostly, you want your dog’s body to rest undisturbed.
5 tips on what to do if you plan to bury your dog in the backyard
#1: Bury them properly
It’s comforting to know that your pooch is still close. Even if they’ve already passed away.
That’s why you choose to bury your dog in the backyard.
In this case, you have to make sure you bury their body properly.
After your dog dies, you should wait for 2-3 hours. You’ll do this to ensure that they’re really dead.
Or you can also wait for the ‘rigor mortis’ to set in.
This is the third stage of death when their limbs are already stiffening. Which happens 2-6 hours after their death.
(Take this time to call your vet for any advice.)
After you’ve said your goodbyes, you have to get your dog’s body ready for burying.
Get a cotton cloth or towel. You can also use pillowcases.
It’s important to use breathable and biodegradable materials in wrapping your dog. This is to ensure their body will decompose naturally.
You must also avoid using a plastic bag or any synthetic fabric.
Because this will only slow down the decaying process of your dog’s body.
“But I’m worried that if I don’t use plastic, foxes will smell my dog.”
This is true.
In this case, you can also use biodegradable plastic.
This is also why you have to bury your dog deep in the ground. The recommended depth is 2-5 ft underground.
If you have a larger dog, you need to put them in a more secure container.
Their bodies are bigger.
And they would require a more enclosed space so luring animals won’t get to them.
Like a casket, wooden box, or a dog burial coffin.
You can also ask your local vet for dog burial bags and biodegradable caskets.
#2: Check the laws in your state and county
When our beloved pooches die, it’s like a part of us is also missing.
It may be hard for you to process everything. But you have to take responsibility for taking care of the body of your dog.
So before burying them make sure that you’re not breaking any laws.
Ask your local vet for any dog burial regulations and guidelines.
And don’t forget your Homeowner’s Association.
Some states allow this.
But local communities may not because of certain health hazards.
Especially if your dog died because of euthanasia or any contagious diseases.
#3: Choose a good location
There are many horror stories on the web regarding some vets.
They’re putting more ashes in the urn to make the weight heavier. (In short, you need to pay more.)
That’s why you and your family have decided to bury your dog in the backyard.
Everyone feels more secure.
Because you know where your beloved dog is. And you can visit them anytime you want to.
If you plan on burying them in your garden, make sure that it’s deep enough.
They’ll be a good fertilizer for your plants when they decompose.
And the beautiful flowers and plants can be their marker.
So whenever you see them, you’ll always be reminded of your sweet furbaby.
But before you bury your dog, scout your surroundings first.
Choose the best location for their grave.
It should be 100 ft away from any water sources. This is to avoid water contamination in lakes or rivers.
And for safety purposes, check if there are gas lines and water pipes before you dig.
Hitting these things can cause an emergency.
And it’ll also cost you a lot for the repair.
Other places you can bury your dog
In some places in the world, you can bury your dog in mountains and forests.
For example, you and your pooch love to hike.
You can ask your local government if you can bury your dog in your favorite hill or mountain.
Or if you guys used to enjoy walking in the woods, bury them there. In the spot where you’ve shared good times with.
The place where you should bury your pooch matters.
Because it should be a place filled with good memories. So every time you visit them, you’ll become happy remembering them.
#4: Organize their burial
Organizing a dog burial in the backyard will take an emotional toll on you.
But you have to be strong for your pooch’s sake.
When your dog dies, you have to let your other dogs see them. (If you have any.)
By sniffing on their dog companion, they’ll know that they’re already gone.
This process will help them understand that their companion is now dead.
Because if you do not do this, they’ll keep on wondering what happened to their friend or sibling.
In a way, this can also give them some closure.
But take note.
It’s important that you don’t let your other dogs join the burial itself.
This is to prevent them from digging up your dog’s dead body.
The next thing you need to do is to tell your friends and other relatives. All the people who also love your dog.
Just like you, they’d want to say their goodbyes, too.
And lastly, let the children attend their dog burial at home.
This will help them understand that your dog, who’s also a part of the family, is now gone.
#5: Keep the scavengers away
After your dog’s burial, it’s important that you take precautions.
Against wild animals and scavengers that will try to dig up your dog’s body.
Fences and wires
Burying them deep enough may not be enough sometimes. So in this case, you have to put a fence or barbed wire around their burial site.
Keep the fence and wires until 18 months have passed.
This is to make sure that their body is fully decomposed. And it will not be disturbed by scavengers anymore.
Large stones and slabs
If the wires are a safety risk, you can put large stepping stones or concrete slabs instead. Then put this on top of their grave.
Make sure what you pick’s heavy.
Because if it’s hard for you to put it, the animals will struggle more to remove it.
This will keep them from digging on your dog’s burial ground.
Aside from that, you can have it engraved with their name.
Another way you can keep your dog’s grave from luring animals is by using animal repellents.
Especially to keep away the foxes
They’re nocturnal animals that creep out during the nights to look for food. So it’s hard to keep them away when everyone’s already sleeping.
In forums, other dog parents complain of their dogs and cats being dug up by foxes.
What you can do is repel them.
So how do you scare them away?
According to the Humane Society, foxes are scared of humans.
That being said, male urine could be used to keep them away from your property.
They would see this scent as a threat and this could make them run off to another place. But there are also loopholes in this solution.
It isn’t really practical to pee on your whole property. But if you have another dog, their urine could also deter these foxes away.
If they smell their pee, the foxes might get intimidated and leave.
Bonus: Consider alternatives to backyard burial
Maybe you’re having second thoughts. Or by any chance, you’re not allowed to bury your dog in the backyard.
There are other ways to take care of your dog’s body.
You can have your dog cremated by your trusted vet.
If your budget is limited, you can have your dog cremated with other animals.
But you can’t take their ashes with you. Since it’ll be a communal cremation.
Or you can also arrange for individual cremation. Which allows you to take their ashes home with you.
The cost of individual cremation costs around $50 to $150.
According to Vetstreet, 50% of Americans are expected to choose cremation for their fur babies by 2020.
It’s gaining popularity because it’s convenient and it has its advantages.
One of them is that you can take your dog’s ashes with you wherever you go.
You can have their urn buried in your garden.
Or you can have it buried with you when you die.
(Check first if the laws in your state will allow this.)
You can also turn their ashes into remembrance or glass stones.
These stones will be infused with your dog’s ashes. And it can serve as a keepsake of your pooch.
Having your dog buried in a pet cemetery is another option.
Although it’s more formal, this process isn’t cheap.
Dog burial costs in a pet cemetery range from $1,500 to $2,000.
This includes your dog’s casket, the burial service, and the land they’ll be buried in.
And take note that this doesn’t include the annual fees for maintenance costs yet.
The only advantage of pet cemeteries is your dog has a specific place they’re buried in. And that you can still come back to visit it even after many years.
Donate for research
Your dog may still save lives. Even after their death.
This is by donating their body or organs for research.
Especially if your dog died from illnesses such as cancer.
This can help train other veterinarians and students. So they may save other animals who have the same sickness as your dog’s.
Note: Choose wisely as once you donate their body, you’ll not be able to get it back.
After the students are done with their research, your pooch will be then cremated.