Is it Legal to Bury Your Pet in the Backyard?
The bond that humans forge with family pets and animals is a difficult one to let go of once they reach their final resting place.
Yet, facing a pet’s departure, and having to deal with grief for the first time, can be particularly stressful for young children.
Most parents will try to mark the period of sadness with some significant remembrance that the process of ‘saying goodbye to a pet’ deserves.
Important: Burying the remains of an animal at home creates a dedicated spot for remembrance. Even so, you must follow the rules and regulations for pet burials in the United Kingdom.
UK Law Burying Pets at Home
Legislation in Britain and Northern Ireland grants permission to homeowners to bury animals within the grounds of the property.
- You must own the plot of land where the pet will be buried – not renting it from a landlord as a tenant – and it should be a domestic property (e.g. not an active business).
- The pet must also have lived at the same dwelling – unless you choose to have it buried at a registered pet cemetery. So, if you do not have a garden at home you can’t dig a hole in a public place (e.g. in the ground at a friend’s house or a local park).
- As a rule, it is best to bury a pet away from any major water sources (e.g. garden ponds, rivers, streams, or wells). Be careful not to damage any underground cables or pipes when you start digging.
- Dig a grave big enough so there will be at least three (3) feet of earth above the remains in heavy soils and two (2) feet in lighter soils.
- Although it’s a rare occurrence, a veterinarian may refuse to release the animal’s remains for burial (e.g. if certain controlled drugs would be hazardous for other species of wildlife). You can ask the vet for a written explanation if it becomes an issue.
Note: The main section contains information about caring for pets and animals including some funny pet laws that still exist in the United Kingdom.
Storing a Pet’s Remains before Burial
It is not always possible to bury a pet immediately after death, such as when waiting for family members to join a wake.
In this case, you should try to store the remains at a temperature below 4° Celsius (39 Fahrenheit). Doing so will provide you with a few days to make any final preparations ahead of the ‘sending off’ ritual.
In case you were wondering:
Storing the carcass at a temperature below freezing would give you a lot longer. But, vets recommend burying a large animal (e.g. equines) without any unnecessary delay.
Note: Storing a large animal corpse for too long in the freezer can make it difficult to move the body once rigor mortis sets in.
Burying a Dog or Cat in a Home Garden
There are a few more important things you should know before you try to bury your dead dog or cat. Body fluids can come out shortly after death and again when you need to move or handle it. So, it’s a good idea to place the body on a waterproof material once your companion has passed away.
Many owners choose to wrap them in a blanket or a fluffy towel as well. Placing them in a sleeping position may also bring you some comfort – and make it easier to move the body after you have dug the grave.
It is a good idea to let other pets (if you have them) see the remains and have a bit of a sniff. It gives them an opportunity to understand what has happened to the family pet, instead of wondering why they vanished.
The final resting place that you choose in the garden for burial should not be a place that may be excavated (e.g. near to fruit trees or flower beds). Also, site the grave a safe distance away from any major water sources and underground pipes.
Taking a few basic measurements (width, length, height) makes it easier to determine exactly how much ground you will need to dig out. Wrap the carcass in something biodegradable – not plastic!
Place the animal in a comfortable position at the bottom and then fill in the grave. It is a good idea to place a few stones or a sturdy plant pot on top of the grave to deter scavenging animals (e.g. foxes, wild birds) from getting at the remains.
Tip: Even if you follow the rules for burying a dead pet in the garden, choosing a home burial for an animal may not be the best choice if you think you might move to another property at some time in the future.
How to Find a Private Pet Cemetery
So, you may be wondering how much does it cost to bury a pet in Britain or Northern Ireland? In fact, burying a pet at home costs nothing. Whereas, paying for the services of a dedicated pet cemetery is likely to cost a few hundred pounds.
Registered pet cemeteries offer lasting resting places for animals after death – and they will still be there even if you decide to move home.
Having a Pet Cremated
Animal cremations have become a popular option for ‘remembering a family pet’ in the United Kingdom. Some of the advantages include:
- The crematorium will return the ashes to you.
- You can choose to scatter them or bury them at your favourite spot in the garden (e.g. when placed in a biodegradable container).
- Appointing a final resting place at the pet crematorium. You can also buy a memorial plaque to accompany it.
Note: The Association of Private Pet Cemeteries and Crematoria sets the standards for the respectful cremation and burial of companion animals.
Help Guides about Animals
- Can you have a pet monkey in United Kingdom?
- Human behaviors dogs hate (e.g. cosplay).
- Printable list of toxic foods for dogs and cats.
Note: This short bereavement video discusses some important topics about pet burials, including how to check if an animal is dead and then deciding whether to have its body cremated or buried in the ground at home.