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Horse Disposal Options: Safe Carcass Removal Or Disposal

By Jeffrey Rolo

In our previous article, Planning For The Death Of A Horse, we covered the possibility of sending an ill or aging horse to slaughter, which not only removes the problem of disposing of a horse carcass, but also recycles the body. For most of us this won't be an option... we'll either have to deal with an already dead horse either by need or by choice.

Horse Rendering

Even if you don't wish to recycle your horse's body via horse meat, you need not automatically rule out recycling it for other uses. Although their numbers have shrunk considerably (thanks in large part to a 1997 F.D.A. law regarding how rendered horse products could be used in cattle feed), there are rendering plants across the nation, and a plant located near you may be willing to accept horses. This method of horse disposal is very regional-dependent, so it's important to see if this is an option beforehand rather than just assuming a horse rendering facility is located near you.

Most rendering plants that accept horses will be willing to pick up your horse for a fee. Some will require you to transport it. Discuss the options and requirements with a rendering plant near you. Also keep in mind that horse rendering plants near you may have specific rules regarding drugged horses and/or the length of time a horse carcass has been deceased.

Horse rendering is a good option if it's available to you. Although it can be difficult to shake the emotional image of rendering a carcass if you're sensitive, ultimately it's an environmentally-friendly and efficient process, and since the rendering temperatures hit around 300 degrees Fahrenheit, it's also a great option for diseased horse carcasses.

Horse Burial

The most common method of horse disposal and the one that even the most sensitive of people are comfortable with is burying a horse somewhere on your property. Since this is the favored method for horse owners, I'll cover the subject in detail in another article. There are too many legal issues and important safety rules to cover to insert into this article, so if you would like to learn more about the topic check out our related article How To Bury A Dead Horse.

Leave The Carcass For Scavengers

This option will not be available to most horse owners for various reasons. First and foremost, it's illegal in some states and many counties since a horse carcass can invite disease, contaminate water supplies and attract vermin. Second, it requires a significant amount of acreage, because the last thing you want to do is leave a carcass near your home, a neighbor's property, or in an unwooded area. You don't want to encourage scavengers, pests and vermin to set up shop near your home.

If you do have wooded, unused acreage, it's certainly an easy horse disposal method; chain the carcass to a tractor, drag it to an isolated spot, and let nature take its course from there. But even with it being the easiest method of disposal, it's not one I recommend for most. Disease, water contamination, legality issues, pests and the potential for the decomposition stench to wander further than you anticipated just aren't worth it for me.

Horse Cremation

Cremation is a commonly accepted way to dispose of a dead horse, but it may or may not be an option for you depending on where you live. Some states have horse cremation services readily available, while in other states such as Texas, horse cremation facilities may be few to nil. Even pet cemeteries aren't always able to cremate horses, not due to unwillingness, but due to the challenges of a horse's size. Most facilities just don't have the machinery available to handle such a large carcass. If your local pet cemeteries are unable to handle a horse cremation job, contact some local universities or your state's Department of Agriculture; if they cannot offer the services themselves, they may be able to point you in the right direction since they'll be familiar with the whole carcass handling process.

How you handle the ashes will also impact how much you need to pay an outside facility to cremate your horse. Cremation fees generally run the gamut: anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to around 75 cents per pound, which adds up quickly. If you wish for your horse's ashes to be returned to you, expect to pay significantly more. And that doesn't necessarily cover the cost of transporting the horse carcass to the cremation facility, which can tack on a couple hundred dollars more to the cost depending on where you live.

If you wish to cremate your horse, I strongly recommend that you use an outside service. While it certainly is possible to cremate your own horse on your own property, be aware that many counties have strict regulations regarding the practice. Your county may only permit horse cremation on agriculturally-zoned properties, or areas located a certain distance away from neighboring property, etc. Even if you have plenty of acreage and think you're fine, I don't advise “going for it” without first checking with county officials. If your illegal cremation were to be discovered, you could be fined severely.

And it's not exactly far-fetched that your horse cremation would be discovered. The process is rather slow, and the unpleasant scent is extremely strong. On a windy day, you'll be surprised how far the stench can drift, so think long and hard about whether you wish to attempt to cremate your own horse.

Read about other disposal options (including one that I strongly favor) in the second part of this series, More Ways To Handle Disposal Of Dead Horses.

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