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Legal How-To: Burying Your Pet

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

No owner wants to think about burying his or her pet, but it's often necessary to find a final resting place for your furry friend.

But before you get a shovel and a large cardboard box for your pet's backyard burial, you should know about the kinds of laws you may be violating. This is especially true if you're thinking about burying your pet in a public park.

Before you say your goodbyes, check out our legal how-to on burying your pet:

Home Burial

Depending on where you live, it may not be legal for you to bury your cat, dog, or even turtle on your home's property. This rule may apply to humans as well as any other animals, depending on your city or state's laws. San Francisco, for example, prohibits the burial of any animal which died from "an infectious or contagious disease" to be buried "within 500 feet of any residence."

So if your dog died of rabies (ala "Old Yeller") and you live in a town with similar laws, you may be breaking the law by burying your pet under the tree by your home. Even if you're within the city's laws on pet burial, make sure that your home burial is done on property you actually own. If you're an apartment dweller, you definitely need the landlord's permission before sticking your pet's remains in the ground attached to the property.

To be safe, you may also want to call your local animal control agency to learn more about the laws in your area.

Burial on Public Land

Although Fido may have loved running and catching the Frisbee in your neighborhood public park, it's probably not a good idea to secretly bury him there. Most local laws require owners to fill in any hole your dog digs, even in a public park, so digging one to put your dog in it is probably not Kosher.

Burial in a Pet Cemetery

They aren't just the subject of old horror movies; pet cemeteries may take many of the legal hassles out burying your beloved pet. Cemeteries -- pet or otherwise -- are usually highly regulated by state law, so if anything isn't done right, they'll likely bear the cost of burying your pet illegally, not you. And if you're in New York, even humans may be buried alongside their pets. As for other states and localities, again you'll want to check your local laws.

Are you facing a legal issue you'd like to handle on your own? Suggest a topic for our Legal How-To series by sending us a tweet @FindLawConsumer with the hashtag #HowTo.

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