You’ve probably heard the old saying, “Dogs leave paw prints on our hearts.” Finding out the rules and procedures for how to bury a dog after they have passed is a heartbreaking experience.
While many pet owners choose pet cremation, others prefer a pet burial for their dog’s remains. Burying pets like a dog or cat can be done at your local pet cemetery, or you can choose a backyard burial.
Specific steps are needed to properly bury your pet regardless of which method you choose to remember your furry friend. This guide will look at these steps and explore the various local laws associated with burying your deceased pets, memorial marker and pet casket options, and more. Hopefully, it will give you peace of mind while planning the difficult task of burying your beloved pet.
Things to Know Before You Bury Your Dog
Pet burial is a matter of personal preference as a way to remember your beloved dog or cat. You can do this at the pet section in a cemetery or bury your pet close to you in your own backyard. Many will choose backyard burials as a comforting way to pay tribute to their beloved friend, save costs, and also have their memorial close. However, there are some things you will need to consider before you decide to create a burial site in your yard.
A backyard burial is legal in most states, but there are some rules to follow, and some municipalities have made it illegal to do so. It is best to find out the local laws surrounding pet backyard burials and the rules and regulations for your specific pet burial. Here are some general things to consider before you bury your pet:
- How soon do you have to bury your deceased pet? Most states will give a pet owner 24 to 48 hours after the pet passes before they have to legally bury or cremate the remains. Suppose you decide to place your dog’s remains in a gravesite or cremate them in a crematorium. In that case, some local authorities may allow you to keep the pet’s remains a little longer until all of the arrangements are finalized.
- Should you bury the pet in a heavy-duty plastic bag? While some pet owners will bury their pet in a wood or metal box, it is recommended that you place the body in a biodegradable burial container. A wood pet casket is fine as long as it is made with more biodegradable materials. A cardboard coffin is an environmentally friendly option for burying a pet.
How deep will you have to bury the pet? Most state laws have a set minimum depth for a home burial site. The depth can range from at least two feet for a shallower grave to five feet deep. There are some factors to consider, including:
- The size of the dog’s body
- The size and the style of the burial container
- Whether other items such as a favorite toy or collar
You may have to dig deep for larger animals such as a large dog than you would for a fish or cat. Ensure the pet’s grave is deep enough to keep the animal from being disturbed by wild animals or frost. Make sure you contact your local utility companies to mark water lines and gas lines before digging the gravesite.
- Can humans be buried in pet cemeteries? No. Typically these cemeteries are smaller sections located in a human cemetery, and humans cannot be buried in these spots due to the size of the graves. However, in some states like New York and New Jersey, cremated human remains can be buried inside a deceased pet’s grave, but only in the pet section.
- Can your pet’s ashes be buried with you? Yes. In most states, your pet’s ashes can be buried with you. An individual funeral director or cemetery manager may have special requirements for what is allowed in the coffin, but most will make exceptions for a pet urn.
Certain medications can stay in a dead dog or cat’s body long after passing. This includes most prescription medications, chemotherapy, and even euthanasia. If other animals ingest these potent chemicals, they can cause severe illness and, in some cases, death.
Animals, including other pets and wildlife, must be kept away from the deceased pet’s body until it has been properly dealt with and is in its final resting place. Another reason to ensure that the cat or dog burial site is deep enough is to keep animals from digging up your pet’s body.
It is also important to be cautious when handling the pet’s remains before being placed in a pet casket and buried. Make sure you handle the body using gloves and wash your hands thoroughly afterward.
Creating a beautiful and cherished pet memorial for your beloved pet in your backyard is a loving way to remember them. However, if you think you may be moving in the near future, then the idea of burying your pet in your current backyard might not be the best thing to do.
You’ll be leaving your pet memorial behind for new owners, or it may put you in the painful position of performing an excavation at some point to take the remains with you. Either option is not ideal. A pet cremation might be better suited if you think you may be moving. You can then take the ashes with you and bury your pet at your new and final home.
Climate Where You Bury Your Pet
The area where you bury your pet matters. Any area that sees heavy rainfall might not be suitable for pet burial. Property owners in wet areas should consider other methods of honoring their beloved dog or cat.
A property owner who lives in a cold climate may have problems digging the cat or dog’s grave, placing the grave marker, or making a pet memorial that will last in severely cold temperatures. It is best to factor in climate, temperature, and ground conditions before you decide to bury your pet to make better arrangements more suited for the area you live in.
Digging a gravesite to bury your pet is not an easy task. It is emotionally draining to even think about it, let alone do it. The emotional toll it takes on you is hard enough, but you must also consider physical exertion. An individual gravesite must be at least two feet deep for smaller pets and five feet deep for larger dogs.
The hole size also has to accommodate other things, such as the burial container you’ll bury your pet in or whether they will be buried with several of their favorite toys. It is also challenging to witness the signs of death coming over a pet close to your heart.
Handling a beloved pet’s body after they have passed is not easy. You may need to reach out to a grief counselor or speak to close family and friends to help you through the process. Words about the “rainbow bridge” and “doggy heaven” can help, but there is no preparation for dealing with the burial of your beloved dog’s body. Seek help if the process is too difficult for you to handle alone.
Steps to a Peaceful Burial Process
As pet owners, you’ll never be fully prepared for the death of your cat, dog, or other pets. Collecting all of their favorite toys, choosing a memorial stone, or finding a suitable space to lay your friend to rest can all be very hard.
Dog care doesn’t just stop once your dog has died; you want to ensure they have the best possible service because no other dog will fill their collar. Here are some ways you can make their last goodbye meaningful:
#1. Say Goodbye
Saying goodbye to your furry loved one isn’t easy. Many pet parents will do several things to honor their faithful companion. Some will make paw print impressions using an inkblot, while others say a few words about how their dog touched their lives.
#2. Wrap The Body
Preparing your dog for burial can be as elaborate or as simple as you want. The most recommended method is to wrap your dog up in their favorite blanket. You could also place a toy or personal item inside the blanket before wrapping up your dog.
By wrapping up the remains, it can be easier for dog owners to continue with the burial ceremony. You won’t see your beloved pet’s body while you bury them. The blanket will also contain most of the mess associated with an animal going through the physical stages of death.
#3. Pick a Location
One of the more critical things to know about how to bury a dog is finding a suitable location. It should have adequate drainage where standing water will never gather, so the pet will not resurface, creating an emotional upset for the pet owners. It should be in an area where other pets don’t visit often, but close enough so that you can visit them often.
#4. Dig the Hole
If you and your family members want to perform a special ceremony, it is always best to have the hole prepared before you start. Spend some time outside digging the hole, making it look nice, and leaving an area for others to stand around during the ceremony.
By pre-digging the hole, you’ll have the messy and hard work out of the way, so all you have to do is focus on the ceremony when it is time. As mentioned before, check with your local laws about pet burial to make sure that you can bury pets in your backyard.
#5. Place The Deceased Dog In The Hole
Some pet owners may choose to bury their furry friend in a wooden or cardboard casket, while others may simply lay the body directly in the hole wrapped up in a blanket. Whichever method you choose, make sure to lower the body until it comes to rest gently.
#6. Refill the Hole
Before you start to refill the hole, this is usually the best time for those attending the funeral service to say a prayer, add flowers, or toss a handful of soil onto the casket or wrapped dog. You may choose to start refilling the hole immediately or wait until those at the ceremony have left. There is no right or wrong way to carry out a ceremony for your furry companion. Do what feels right.
Stop and spread some kitty litter around once you are halfway up filling the grave. The kitty litter will help prevent any odors from escaping and attract other animals that may wish to dig up the body or disturb the grave.
Once the hole is filled, step around on it to firmly press the soil into the ground. This will help make a tight and compact grave which will further prevent animals from disturbing it and help with drainage.
#7. Add a Memorial Stone or Marker
Adding a memorial marker or stone is a great way to always remember the pet that gave you so much love. You can make a headstone or cross yourself using wood or a garden stone that can be decorated, or you can have one custom-created by a memorial marker company.
If you order a custom-made stone, be prepared to spend extra money. This is not an inexpensive service, and the more elaborate the stone, the more expensive it will be. If you choose this method, you can have your dog’s name, dates, and even images of your furry friend engraved for a fee.
Alternatives to Burying Your Dog in the Backyard
If a backyard burial isn’t how you want to remember the dogs, cats, or other animals in your life, then there are alternatives that you can choose from that are just as honorable. In fact, many people choose these other methods. Here are the most common ways to take care of your pet’s remains:
At pet cemeteries, most of the work surrounding the pet’s burial is handled by the cemetery staff for a fee. Some of the services included when you choose the option of a pet cemetery are:
- Digging the hole for the grave.
- Adding the grave marker at the grave site.
- Maintaining the cemetery grounds.
You can also choose to have your pet or their ashes buried or placed in a mausoleum at the cemetery. A simple burial plot with an individual grave site can cost a pet owner up to $500. There may be additional fees such as handling, transfer, and other special requests. Talk to your veterinarian or crematorium company to get more information about the services and the costs associated with them.
Cremation is one of the most common methods of handling the remains of your deceased furry friend. Cremation involves using heat to incinerate the remains into ash so that you can either store them in an urn, have them scattered, incorporate them into keepsake jewelry, or bury them.
Depending on the style of cremation service you choose, it can cost anywhere from $150 to well over $1000. Communal or group cremation is the cheapest option where several pets are cremated all at once. With this method, you will not receive your pet’s ashes, but you can arrange for the crematorium to create a pet memorial service in your pet’s honor.
Another method is individual cremation. With this method, the pots are placed into individual cremation chambers and then cremated simultaneously. Even though this method does not prevent the leakage of some ashes between chambers, it is more secure than communal cremation. You will receive your pet’s ashes, but there is no guarantee that a small percentage of some other cat or dog ashes will not be mixed in with yours.
A private cremation means that your pet is cremated with no other pet in the chamber during the cremation. You are wholly guaranteed to receive your pet’s ashes with this method. With every service, there are fees attached. Talk to your local crematorium for information about the various services offered and the pricing of each.
Another option for dealing with your four-legged friend’s remains is a method called “alkaline hydrolysis.” This process uses water mixed with alkaline chemicals and heat to break down the body. Although not as common as cremation, the pricing is relatively the same.
Donating for Medical Research
Dogs that have suffered from rare or debilitating conditions can have their bodies donated to medical research. By doing so, your selfless efforts may help another loved pet like a dog or cat overcome the same affliction, saving its life – and other pets’ lives in the future.
Most pet owners choose either a burial or cremation service. However, there are still some who prefer the route of taxidermy. Although not as popular and not as affordable as the other methods, taxidermy is a way to preserve your pet so it can be a part of your home. The biggest drawback to using taxidermy is that it can be extremely difficult for some to see their pet in a stiff and lifeless form.
There are some comforting benefits to knowing where, when, why, and how to bury a dog. You get to personally take care of your beloved dog’s remains and honor them the way you want to. You can make the space where they are laid to rest look beautiful with the addition of a growing bush, tree, or colorfully designed flower garden.
We know it is difficult to bury your four-legged companion. As their time draws to an end, you can begin to think about the best way to honor your pet. With some deep and insightful thought, how you lay them to rest will boil down to how you want to remember them. It’s a personal decision.