Cover Image for What To Consider Before Burying Your Pet
Pet Aftercare

What To Consider Before Burying Your Pet

When facing the end of a beloved pet’s life, there is a lot of information and emotions to sort through. Here we discuss what to know, should you decide that burial is right for your pet.

Dr. Bethany Hsia

July 09, 2023

The death of a beloved pet is among the most challenging experiences that pet parents go through. Walking through end-of-life care and saying goodbye is hard enough, but what happens next?

There are a handful of ways to lay a pet to rest. The two main categories are cremation and burial; although other options exist such as taxidermy or donations to veterinary science.

In this article, we’ll explore the main challenges and best practices for backyard burials.

Is It Legal To Bury Your Pet in Your Backyard or on Private Property?

When considering burial options, some property owners turn to home or backyard burials. These burials are private, personal, and often more affordable than other options.

Naturally, most pet parents will first wonder: Is it legal to bury a pet in your yard? The answer is a resounding… “maybe.” There are no nationwide laws regarding pet burial on private property. However, there are state, county, city, and potentially homeowner’s association guidelines to keep in mind.

In most states, it is legal to bury your pet in your backyard, as long as it doesn't cause a nuisance or health hazard; more on that later. At the time of this writing; pet burial on private property is not permitted in Arkansas, Vermont, nor Wisconsin. In California, it’s not permitted in urban areas but may be permitted in rural areas. There are no state laws banning pet burial in Arizona, but most cities don’t allow it.

Many of the states and cities that allow for pet burial still have regulations and restrictions you must follow. Rules such as distance from water, public roads and other private residences as well as depth of burial. Finally, some jurisdictions may require disclosure to new homeowners should you ever sell the property.

Laws vary by location and can change, so it’s important to always check with local authorities before you finalize burial plans.

Key Considerations When Burying Your Beloved Pet

Before you choose a final resting place for your pet, it’s important to consider your options, along with best practices for burial. Let’s simplify the burial process, considering: who, what, when, where and how.

Who Can Be Buried

First, if your pet has died of or was euthanized with a contagious disease they should be cremated. This will help prevent the accidental exposure of other pets or wildlife. Another consideration is size. To make sure your pet’s resting place stays safe and secure, the burial should allow for the top of the pet to be covered with at least two feet of soil.

What To Bury Your Pet In

Many pet parents opt to bury their loved ones in a pet casket. These caskets can be a beautiful way to honor your pet and provide a more secure resting place. For home burials, it’s recommended to choose a biodegradable option, like a wood casket or eco-friendly pod. Some pet caskets allow for personalization with places to add drawings, notes, or inscriptions to honor the departed.

When To Bury Your Pet

Most states require you to bury your pet within 24 to 48 hours after death. If you are using a pet cemetery they may safely and securely hold your pet until the interment; giving more time to make arrangements.

Where To Bury Your Pet

As a rule of thumb, burial sites should be well away from any bodies of water and sandy, rocky, or flood prone land should be avoided. Improper burial can lead to water pollution and other ecological impacts. As unpleasant as it is to consider, decomposition allows for the release of potentially hazardous compounds and pharmaceuticals, especially in pets that have been euthanized. Be sure to check with local authorities to make sure you’re complying with all requirements before you start.

Another option for pet burial is a pet cemetery. Many communities have pet cemeteries which offer burial plots, headstones, and memorial services. Arrangements will need to be made in advance so a place is prepared for your pet.

Recently some human cemeteries have begun to allow pets in certain designated areas. On the whole, most cemeteries do not allow pets and their people to be buried together. However, some do allow for cremated pets to be interred with the human family member once they have also passed.

How to Bury Your Pet

It is important to consider the security of the final resting place for any animal. As difficult as it may be to know, your pet’s gravesite may be attractive to wild-life or other animals. Furthermore, the bodies of animals that have been euthanized contain the medication that allowed them to pass peacefully and these medications can pose a fatal threat to other animals who may ingest them. Should such an animal be a protected species, there may be legal ramifications in addition to the emotional toll.

There are a few steps that can help decrease the chances of desecration by wildlife. First, depth of the body is important. As previously stated, there should be a minimum of two feet of earth above the body. Additionally, you can place wire or grating over the burial site and under the topsoil. Finally, you may wish to place a headstone or memorial plant which can also serve to commemorate the life of your pet.

Saying Farewell and Honoring Your Pet

Saying the final goodbye to a beloved pet is heart-rending. But honoring the bond you have shared can help you move through the grieving process. For some, having a physical place to visit and feel close to the departed is comforting. Certainly, this doesn’t have to be the final resting place; it may be a favorite spot during the pet’s life, a memorial garden planted in their honor, or a newly discovered place that they would have loved.

We are here if you find that your pet is nearing the end of their journey and you would like to explore at-home euthanasiaor learn about cremation and other aftercare options. If you feel it’s time you may schedule an appointment here.


Dr. Bethany graduated from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in 2010. After graduation, she moved west. Dr. Bethany spent a year at a small animal exclusive practice in Washington state, where she was first introduced to in-home euthanasia.  Read More