Stop Burying Your Pets In The Backyard

Stop Burying Your Pets In The Backyard

I buried my first and only pet when I was 7. His name was Hopper and he was a rabbit.

Hopper lived a short life before ending up buried in my backyard. I learned this week that this was probably the wrong move, thanks to a story by veterinary anatomic pathologist Rachel Allevana on The Conversation.

Turns out burying your deceased pet raises a lot of environmental concerns, and may have adverse effects on your other pets, as well as local wildlife.

If a pet is put down, it’s usually done using a concentrated anesthetic agent than can linger in the body of the animal anywhere up to an entire year. Any animal that comes into contact with the remains of a euthanised pet can become sick or even die. Allevana writes:

I have seen two cases in my career where this has happened, with serious consequences. In one case a family had their pet mouse put down and buried it in the backyard. The family’s terrier dug up and ate the mouse, and was comatose in intensive care for nearly a week. In another case, two farm dogs scavenged some bones from a cow which had been euthanased [sic] on a farm months before. One dog died and the other was seriously ill for several days.

A. pet. mouse.

If the pet in question died of a disease, it’s rare but still possible for that illness to spread to another animal.

Even if you don’t have another pet, think about every other neighbourhood dog or wild animal that might come into contact with your pet’s burial site. And if you move, the pets of the resident who lives in your house after you might be affected.

ImageGetty Images” loading=”lazy” > Photo: Wang He, Getty Images

If you’re committed to the act of burying your pet, well, we can’t stop you, but you might not have the legal option to anyway. Some local councils regulate if and how you can bury animals, so be sure to do an online search of your area’s rules before doing so.

As a general rule of thumb, pets should be covered by at least three feet of soil and be buried well away from any well, spring or stream. Alternatively, cremation guarantees you won’t endanger other pets (and you can still have keep your loved one nearby) – but again, various laws apply.

If you must bury a pet, secure them in a plastic bag (like a trash bag) and tie it so it won’t open. Bury them at least three feet deep, and again, away from any potential flooding area or you might end up living out a scene from Pet Sematary.


  • I would think that burying a pet in a plastic bag would be worse, in that it wouldn’t be able to decompose as quickly and would “trap” nasties like the drugs used to euthenise it. I’d think burying it deep enough would be sufficient. Especially if you live in suburbia. It’s telling that a couple of the examples given were of *farm dogs*. Living in suburbia I don’t have stray dogs roaming my yard, and the biggest native wildlife is a possum or Koala…

    It’s bad enough having a pet die, it’s even worse having to pay to get them put down. It’d be far worse again having to pay to get them cremated. It’s adding insult to injury.

    • I just had my 20 year old cat cremated by choice, since I rent and I didn’t fancy burying her in someone elses backyard.

      I don’t think people should be forced to do it but a lot of people do it by choice.

      Then again if I chose to bury her in the back yard and some stranger’s dog digs a hole under my fence and then dug up my deceased pet and consumed it, that’s on the dogs owners head not mine. Why was your dog roaming the streets freely in the first place?

      • No problems with people making the choice. Whether it’s preference or circumstance it’s up to them.

  • So much this. I recently removed an above-ground flowerbed in my back yard. During this process I disinterred not one, not two, but three dead pets (all wrapped in either plastic or bedding).

    Hard labour is traumatic enough without adding this stuff to the mix – ugh!

  • Many years ago I buried a pet cat that had been hit by a vehicle. After digging a hole about 2 feet deep and placing the cat in it I added soil then added a few pavers, assuming that neighbourhood animals wouldn’t be able to dig through them. I lived at that place for another 5 years and the site was never disturbed by other animals.

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