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How To Bury A Dead Horse

By Jeffrey Rolo

Horse burial is probably the first option that comes to mind when one of our cherished equine companions moves on to greener pastures, but it's not always the best. Before instantly deciding to go the horse burial route, I encourage you to check out this article: Horse Disposal Options: Safe Removal Or Disposal. If after reading that article you are still determined to bury your dead horse, hopefully this article will serve you well.

The most important consideration when burying a horse is familiarity with state and local laws, because simply having a large plot of land does not provide you a legal right to bury a dead horse on your property. State laws can vary widely, ranging from outright banning you from burying a horse on your property to forbidding you from burying a horse carcass that's been dead for more than 24-hours. County laws throw yet another loop into the equation. Some counties will forbid burial of any type, others will require a certain distance between the burial spot and adjacent homes/properties, others will require the burial to take place a certain amount of feet away from any wells or water sources (generally 100 feet or so), others will require a permit and a property test to determine where your water tables are... phew! If those details make your head spin, believe me, they're only the tip of the iceberg. The beauty of bureaucracy, eh?

Don't assume that just because you live in an agricultural area or a fairly rural State that your state and/or local bureaucracies will be accommodating to horse owners. Red tape and government go hand-in-hand, and few places won't have some very strict expectations when it comes to horse burial.

Not that there isn't justification to be cautious. Although I believe a lot of counties' red tape is unnecessarily intrusive, improper burial sites or techniques can attract vermin, create unpleasant stenches and contaminate water supplies, so it's not something you want to take flippantly.

Some horse owners with acreage will bury their horse without paying local laws any heed. For the most part they get away with it just fine, and you may too if you go this route. But beware: the penalties for getting caught can be drastic. One area I know of will make the horse owner dig the carcass back up, dispose of it “properly,” and assess a $5,000.00 fine on top of it all. Ouch! And all it will take is one nosey neighbor to let the word out of your horse burial.

So despite our individual views of what we can or should do with our own property, I recommend contacting your local officials and seeing what laws you need to adhere to when burying a horse on your property.

Unless you have a group of burly men just dying to spend a day digging a big hole, chances are you're going to need a backhoe to dig the burial plot. Unless you have a friend who can lend you his backhoe, you're probably looking at a fee of around $200.00 - $300.00 to have someone come out and dig one for you. If no one is available to backhoe for you, you may need to rent one from a heavy equipment rental facility... and don't expect such a rental to come cheap. Sometimes backhoes can be had for cheaper; it's regionally dependent in large part.

Local laws may vary regarding how deep the burial hole must be, with three feet deep usually being a conservative minimum. I personally recommend a depth of at least six feet. It makes no sense to take shortcuts; you want to securely bury your horse and never worry about scents escaping or vermin being attracted.

Once you have placed the horse carcass into the burial plot, some areas such as the State of Kentucky may require you to make an incision in the abdominal region. Next you want to pour a layer of lime over the entire carcass of the horse, making sure that the lime is at least two inches deep. Finally fill in the hole, ensuring that there's at least three feet between the corpse and the surface. If you use a recommended depth of six feet for the burial plot, this won't be a problem at all.

That's it... you're finished!

If you don't have enough land on your property to bury a horse, you can look around and see if there are any pet cemeteries in your area. Due to the ever-increasing legal restrictions against burying animals on your property, pet cemeteries are being increasingly popular for people that either cannot bury an animal on their land, or don't want to deal with the legal hassles of doing so. It can be a bit costly to use such an option, but there's something to be said for the peace of mind and simplicity.

Otherwise, consider local landfills. You'll need to pay for transportation costs as well as the landfill fee, but other than that it's a very simple process with no exposure to bureaucrats and/or local laws.

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