If my dog dies at the veterinary surgery am I allowed to take it home to bury in my garden? Is it legal to bury my pet in my garden?
The simple answer to both those questions is yes with one exception and that applies to whether or not your pet is considered a hazard to human health after it dies. This will only occur in a very few cases. However, there is a great deal of misunderstanding and gossip about this matter so let us take a look how it fits into the current legislation.
Pets come under the Animal By Products and the Environmental Permitting Regulations after they die. To put it another way they come under the regulations governing animal wastes. Not a very nice thought but they have to fit in somewhere and that is how it is. It does not mean they have to be treated in the way most of us would think of waste and the APPCC have worked hard over the years to ensure proper pet bereavement services can still be performed.
The legislation states that all animals must be incinerated or cremated with the exception that pet animals may be buried in accordance with the waste regulations. This means they have to be buried in a licensed waste site. Again, this is not as bad as it sounds. It means that pet cemeteries have to be licensed under the regulations as landfill sites but they can still function as proper cemeteries. The exception to this is that a pet may be buried in the property that it lived in. Therefore it is quite alright to bury in your own garden but you are not allowed to bury your pet in, say, a friend’s garden. Of course having more than one home creates a bit of a grey area and in theory it should be the property the pet was living in when it died. However, we feel it is unlikely that any fuss would be made over that distinction. Of course you should always bury responsibly at a reasonable depth with at least two feet of earth above the pet in heavy soils and three feet in lighter soils. The grave should be kept away from any water courses.
Although pets are classified as waste they remain your property until you hand them over to the vet or other agency. We consider they still remain your property if you have a cremation with the ashes returned and you only give up ownership once you pass your pet over for final disposal or communal cremation.
The only time a vet would refuse to let you take them home is if they were hazardous and a danger to health. There has been confusion over this issue in the past. When the new hazardous waste regulations came into force the Environment Agency felt all pets should be classified as hazardous waste. That issue was resolved by government by making it clear they would only be hazardous if the vet deemed them to be and that would only be for a small number of cases. However, these cases are unspecified so even though it is clear that very few would be considered hazardous it is left to the vet to make that decision and this in turn can lead to interpretation issues. Any refusal to allow you to take your pet home should be challenged and a written explanation obtained. The Association of Private Pet Cemeteries & Crematoria are always happy to look at any case and discuss it with DEFRA or the Environment Agency for you. A sensible solution can usually be found.
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