Along with the grieving process, the death of a beloved pet also brings some difficult and painful decisions. For many, one of the most difficult decisions is determining body care arrangements after saying goodbye.
Your decisions should be based on how you and your family think that memory can be best honored. Members of your family may have differing views on death and how to handle body care, and it is important to acknowledge the feelings of everyone who was close to the loved one. Some people feel a strong need to have a physical place that they can visit their pet, such as a grave, while others might not feel as comfortable having a pet buried in their yard. Everyone processes death differently – and that is okay! There is no right or wrong.
This is why it is helpful to have this discussion before a pet dies, when possible. Pre-planning provides an opportunity to share ideas and feelings, weigh options, and ensure all voices are heard. It can help avoid a situation in which someone, often the person present at the time of goodbye, will have to make a rushed, emotional decision that may not be the decision the rest of the family would have chosen.
For many, burial brings the comfort of closure. Being able to see and touch a pet’s body can help process the loss and give us time to grieve. Burying your pet’s body is an intimate and personal way to treat them with the same love and care that you gave them during their life. Burial can also be helpful for the surviving pets. Even if they might not seem to be grieving, oftentimes they are experiencing the same type of grief as the rest of the family. Being able to have the body present for some time gives the surviving pets a chance to understand that their friend has left their physical body.
Many people choose to bury a pet at home as a way of keeping them close. Home burial provides the opportunity to create a permanent memorial or resting place. The pet could be buried in a favorite spot in the yard, such as a sunny spot or under a beautiful tree. To mark where your pet is buried, you could use a headstone or grave marker, a memorial statue, or even a tree or flowers planted over the pet’s grave. This makes locating and visiting the pet easy for yourself, your family, friends of your pet, and other animals in the household.
For most cities and states, it is perfectly legal to bury your pet on your property. However, there are some cities/counties that do prohibit home burials, so start by checking your local laws and statutes. Once you have verified that it is legal to bury on your property, you’ll need to locate a safe and secure area where your beloved pet can be buried safely. You will want to pick a spot that won’t be disturbed in the near future. Avoid areas in a flood plain, natural water sources, or flowerbeds that may be dug up and replanted.
You will also need to contact your local energy/power company so they can mark your property with any buried power lines and identify any areas that would be unsafe for burial.
Next, you must be sure that you can dig a deep enough grave to ensure that your pet’s remains will not be disturbed or become a health hazard to wildlife. This helps ensure that the medications in your pet’s system are not harmful to the nearby environment or to other animals. It is best to have at least 3 feet of dirt covering the top of the body. This means that for a large dog, a 5-foot-deep grave is safest.
Considering ground water and already existing landscaping is also beneficial to make sure your pet and anyone else that may come in contact with them stays safe. Burial can be a beautiful resting option for your loved one, ensuring that visitation can happen for years to come.
Casket and Containment Considerations
Your pet does not need a casket if you don’t have one, but there are many types of eco-friendly burial containers, such as an ecopod or Paw Pod, widely available on the internet. Just like when a human dies, there are many personalized options. It is okay to bury your pet without a burial container, but we recommend wrapping your pet in something biodegradable such as a soft cotton sheet or blanket. Their favorite toy, written letter, or photos are also nice items to include. Avoid using plastic as a covering or container for your pet – as it will not break down or decompose.
In conclusion, we recommend discussing aftercare wishes as a family if you’re able to before your pet’s death. Burial is an option as long as you check with your county and power company to do so safely. If burial is no longer an option due to a cold climate, cremation can be arranged safely as long as your pet has not already been buried, as it’s not safe to disturb graves after rest. No matter what option your family chooses, know that every decision is personal and we will support you in honoring your pet’s memory in any way you need.