Can I Bury My Dog Or Cat At Home?

Updated August 11, 2023

Burying a dog or cat is an important part of the grieving process for many people. It certainly was for me. So as someone who advises it, and has done it, I was annoyed to see “Why you shouldn’t bury your pet in the backyard” featured on my ABC.

It’s the classic case of sitting in an ivory tower making the rest of Australia feel guilty for doing what comes naturally. It also says some fairly silly things. So before I give you some simple tips for a proper home burial, let’s clear them up.

Q: Is the concentrated anaesthetic used for euthanasia dangerous to other animals?

A: Not if pets are buried according to our advice.

Q: Should their remains be enclosed in a container that prevents animals accessing the body?

A: No. This will inhibit the normal decomposition process.

Q: Could the diseases they died from spread to other animals or people?

A: If a pet dies of a contagious disease such as Parvo, home burial is not recommended. However, this is now exceedingly rare.

Q: Is your dog or cat’s body useful to science?

A: Rarely. I encourage donations for research and training (see below). However, universities are neither willing nor able to accept the sorts of numbers involved.

Q: Do local councils have restrictions on pet burial

A: Not to our knowledge. I rang my three local councils, and visited many other websites. I am not aware of any council in Australia that has rules against pet burial. Many even give sensible ‘how to’ guidelines.

Pros & Cons Of Home Burial

Reasons why home burial may be right for you include:

  • Grieving- no two people respond to the loss of a pet the same way. For some, having them buried at home is a great comfort.
  • Environment- done well, a pet burial will be carbon neutral and your animal goes back to the soil.
  • Cost- we have to be realistic about what people can afford.

However, home burial is only an option, and these days less people do it. I suspect the reasons are:

  • Difficulty- a good home burial is both physically and emotionally draining.
  • Availability- many people don’t have access to suitable land, especially if they are renting or live in an apartment.
  • Preference- the Animal Welfare League here provides a good cremation service that most owners find very comforting.

Another potential problem (as discussed in the comments below), is leaching of the pentobarbitone from the body into surrounding soil. Euthanasia drugs appear to persist for a long time in the environment. This is of particular concern if food crops are being harvested in the vicinity.

How To Bury A Pet Well

Follow these simple guidelines for a responsible pet burial.

  • Choose an area set aside for ornamental plants, not food crops. Be aware of locations of utilities such as power and water, and future plans for the area.
  • Put your other pets away until afterwards and do not let them see the burial.
  • Dig a hole at least one metre or three feet deep
  • Wrap your pet’s body in something biodegradable like a cotton pillowcase or woollen rug. Avoid synthetic fabrics, plastic bags or sealed containers.
  • Lay them in the hole and cover with all the dirt, tamping it down periodically to make it hard to dig.
  • Mark the location. To be extra sure, place a slab or stones over the top.

Just a warning: it’s very hard to do. Having done this several times, I now wish I had asked someone who wasn’t so emotionally attached.

Importantly, commercial species such as chickens and other poultry cannot be legally buried. Contact your council for advice on options other than cremation in your area.

Alternatives To Cremation & Burial

Pet cremation services are available which allow for a wide range of choice, from special urns and keepsakes all the way to plastic containers for scattering the ashes. We use our local Animal Welfare League; costs are usually around $300 and go towards supporting their animal shelters.

I have enquired with the Companion Animal Health Centre at the Adelaide Uni veterinary school. They are willing to accept donations, mainly for student teaching, but aren’t able to guarantee they could always say yes. The answer will depend on storage space and current student needs.

Another disadvantage of donation to a teaching school is the lack of availability for most Australians. Even here in Adelaide, it’s a long drive.

In saying all this I haven’t asked you how you’re going. I hope the loss of your pet hasn’t been unbearable,. If you’re having trouble, you’re not alone. I’ve written some advice here on bereavement after losing a pet that I hope you find useful.

Have something to add? Comments (if open) will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. Meet his team here.

45 Replies to “Can I Bury My Dog Or Cat At Home?”

  1. On 20 February 2024, we lost our first dog at the age of 9.5years to cancer. He was a large, handsome border collie, very sweet and protective in nature. We never experienced pains and heartbreaks like the loss of my dog. We were unable to leave him behind at the vet’s hospital knowing he longed to be home and did not want to go. We could not bear the thought of leaving him behind in a cold morgue so we brought him home the same evening. Oscillating between what we would do, we found this article that guided us to give him a well-deserved garden burial the next day under a young magnolia tree. We made a heart shaped garden in his name. I will never forget digging his grave in sweltering heat with tears streaming down my face. But the sense of rest, peace, dignity, and connection back to the nature at the end is all worth it. I could feel his presence when I sit by his garden, so do my family. My other dog who grew up with him often comes to rest near the garden as if he had never left.

  2. An additional comment about what to wrap pets in for burial: my three cats, all now in the backyard, are wrapped in beautiful gift paper – which I knew would be quite biodegradable.

  3. My darling dog will pass soon. I won’t have the physical strength to dig a hole a metre deep so would like to bury her in a pit. She is a mini schnauzer only 6 1/2 kilos.
    What size pot shoukd I get and can I just put soil all around her (and I will wrap her in cotton). Thank you

    1. Hi Frankie. You’ll find other answers to this question; my short answer is I don’t know. My guess is that it would have to be at least 30 cm wider than your dog at all points and above and below.

  4. Hi Andrew
    Thank you so much for your time and guidance. We have prepared the gravesite for our much loved 9 yrs old Rottie who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. He has deteriorated significantly over the past 6 months and has been walking on 3 legs and recently struggling to keep up his balance while on painkillers. The most difficult question which has been eating us away is whether he’s in pain. He doesn’t seem to be whining or crying. Could he possibly be in pain even though he lays down so calmly? And how can we tell if he is?
    My second question is, whether it is ok to fill up the gravesite with the clay soil ( clumps) we removed? Or should we mix it with other types of soil for better drainage and compaction? I’m concerned the water to raise or flood after a heavy rain. Many thanks

    1. Hi Fariba. I’m afraid the reality of osteosarcoma is that it is quite painful. You can look into human experiences of the same cancer, for example. Dogs don’t alert us to chronic pain very well, so it’s up to us to be very tuned in to them. Sometimes the only sign is being more withdrawn. As your question about the soil, I really don’t know but it’s probably not a big problem either way.

  5. Thank you for your helpful article Andrew. I am digging the hole for my nearly 16YO Kelpie/Retreiver X so that I don’t get caught out when the time comes. I’m down to clay and won’t be able to dig to a metre. My yard is fenced and no other animals so do you think a soil coverage of 30cm is enough? There will be pavers on top.
    Also, there is a raised tank bed 1.2M away with a fruit tree in it. I don’t think its roots will ever get to ground level. Any water run off will be away from the fruit tree. Is this distance safe?
    I appreciate your advice, thank you.

    1. Hi Sue. It’s definitely not ideal, but if you cover the area with pavers and go out probably another 30 cm on each side it should be okay.

    2. Hi,
      My dog is old and weak, expect anytime to pass away…When time comes planning to burry him in my yard, place memorial stone with rose tree.
      My dog has microchip, how do I go about that? Do I need to report somewhere that he passed away and what did I do with his body?
      I live in Sydney, NSW
      And thank you for this article, its so thoughtful of you, thank you

      1. Hi Collen. Regarding the microchip, you should get a renewal notice from your council, and when you notify them, I expect they will update the database. However, there is no necessity to do so.

  6. I’m considering burying my cat in a large pot and putting a plant in it. I felt this might be a nicer option to cremation. I don’t have a yard to bury her in, and I’d still like to have her with me somehow. Is there anything I should know? Is it a possibility? She’s only little (she doesn’t have long left and I’m looking at options for what I’d like to do) I was going to wrap her in something…

    1. Hi Kelly. The same advice applies, but I don’t know how big the pot should be, so make it as large as possible to avoid any odour.

    1. Hi Kush. That depends on the location and the presence of stray or wild animals. If there are foxes or similar animals about, you should put something heavy over the top as well.

  7. Oh no! I read on a website that you should wrap your animal in a plastic bag so vermin didn’t dig them up.
    My cat died several months ago and I wrapped him in a towel, put him in a beer box (all I had at the time) then wrapped the box in a green garden plastic bag. I then dug a 3ft deep hole and placed him in it.
    Do garden bags disintegrate over time. I don’t really want to dig him up again. I can’t stop thinking about it now

    1. Hi Patricia. I’m sure eventually the bag will be perforated and nature will be allowed to take its course.

  8. Thank you so much for this article. My dog of 13 yrs who is the most important thing in my life has only weeks to live, and I have had to justify to every single person I know why I want to bury him, and not just get him cremated. No one understands why I don’t want him burned in fire to ashes, and want to pay him to rest. So much so that I have had to prepare to do it all myself. I had to buy the tools and tried to start it , but as a woman it was very hard for me to dig, as its like hard clay! I only managed to dig an area of 30cm wide and 10cm deep before i was exhausted and weakI . I don’t know how I’ll manage, but I refuse to give up and give in to cremation.

    1. Hi Penny. It’s for these reasons that our society has tended to employ gravediggers in the past. It’s hard work, but I’m sure if you ask a friend or neighbour they would only be too happy to help.

  9. Hi Andrew,

    We just lost our family German Shepherd yesterday. When we buried him last night we did not cover him or wrap him up. Will that be a problem?

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Janet. There is no absolute requirement. Most people wrap or cover them just because they prefer it that way but as long as you follow the other instructions it should be okay.

  10. Hi Andrew,

    We recent lost our pet bird and would like to bury him in a pot with his favourite plant on top. Is there a safe way to do this? While we aren’t currently planning on moving, we would like to take the plant (and Percy) with us when we do.



    1. Hi Jason. What’s probably most important here is that the volume of earth is much, much greater than the size of the bird. This will allow proper decomposition without anyone noticing from outside. I would guess around 20 times the volume would be a minimum but you are on uncharted territory here. A reasonable request though.

  11. Hello, I had my cat put to sleep. I get him back Tuesday. I own my own place. I gather in a pillow case, 1m deep. Compact the soil. Put a stone slab on. Any more things I should do

  12. Thank you for this reassuring post. Yesterday we had to make the decision to put our cat to sleep. Your words confirmed our back garden burial in the tall bed filled with catnip and cat mint was both appropriate and safe. Thank you.

  13. Hi Andrew,
    I got a lot out of your article, thank you. We are saying goodbye to our 16 year old dog next week and have been weighing up options of what to do with the body. I’ve been leaning more towards burial but where I’d like to put her I won’t be able to dig down (300mm or so I reckon ) very far so was thinking about putting a raised garden / colorbond planter box above her which is about 700mm high , the edge of the plater box would be about 400mm away from the dog in every direction sideways if that makes sense. Do you think this would be ok ?

    1. Hi Matt. That sounds okay as long as you plan to live in the same home for a while. I can only foresee a problem if a new owner tried to remove the planter within a roughly 10 year timeframe.

  14. Hello. I have safely buried one cat and one dog in my veggie garden; they were both euthanized by a vet and I’m wondering if it is safe to still plant veggies? Is there a time limit as to when the drug in their systems becomes harmless? I plant veggies every year but their deaths have changed things and the only option for us was to bury them in the veggie garden. Thanks for your time and wisdom:)

    1. Hi Barb. The drug commonly used in pet euthanasia is pentobarbital or pentobarbitone. It has been shown to persist for an extremely long time (at least two years) in soil and will also be leached by water and possibly spread. Therefore, burying dogs and cats in the veggie patch would be hazardous, and further consumption of food from that soil or even nearby would be best avoided.

  15. My friend buried her dog deep with a backhoe one of her other dogs sat on the grave that night .In the morning that dog was found dead on top the grave.Even dogs can die of a broken heart. Better to keep your dog away from the site.

  16. I am in a rented public housing unit, it has a deep brick garden that is useless to plant most edible vegetation, as it is either over hot or shaded as the sun moves over, an ideal site and close to me.
    My 14-year-old companion, all of three terrier breeds in her bright bouncy body as a puppy and into her adulthood died of degenerative heart disease 14 days ago. She was my constant companion, just her and I for all that time. I had her mother who had to be put to sleep because of Cushing’s Disease but my last little one passing was so hard to cope with.
    I am an 82-year-old male who has just aged a few years more now that the house is empty. I keep looking at where she used to sleep, and even though she seemed to know that she was going to leave me, she still brought her favourite toy out to me for a play, but those times became shorter and shorter.
    The last 20 minutes of her life where agonising to watch and the tears poured out of me as I could do nothing to ease her pain, although I felt that she was brain dead, as when I touched her eye there was no response. Even now, as I write this the tears are falling. I will get another little one which is Okay with my age as I have a friend that would take her if and when I depart this mortal coil. I have read everything on your site, Andrew, and I am not alone, and we must have a balanced view as humans often live longer than their pets. But it still hurts.

    1. If I drill holes in a wooden casket before burial do you think that is ok to help decomposition?

  17. Hello my tenant just moved out of my home and I have just found out that she burried her dog in MY backyard is this illegal what can I do I am in shock -Patricia
    The backyard is not large but the dog was

    1. Hi Patricia. Whether it’s illegal will depend on local regulations, but I certainly commiserate with the lack of consent given. I think it’s only fair that if tenants wish to bury a pet they would be best to get the landlord’s approval first.

  18. What a clear, helpful, informative, sensible and sensitive article. I too was annoyed and mystified by that ABC advice. I am dreading the imminent day my loved one dies, but I now feel equipped to handle at least one aspect of it.
    Thank you Andrew

  19. Hi Andrew, my 13 year old corgi has breast cancer and will die soon. My question is should I have her euthanized, or let her pass normally? She has lost a lot of weight, is incontinent, and has slowed down considerably. I’m not working and funds are tight, however I don’t want her suffering and will come up with any costs.

    1. Hi James. It’s good question, and my advice is clear: get her euthanized as soon as there is any risk. Dogs don’t complain or show you they are suffering so you have to be proactive. Better a week early than a day late. Your vet is the best guide to the right time, but as a general rule, once dogs withdraw themselves, it’s already a little late. You don’t want to know how long a dog with cancer can keep going – it’s not natural to die like this in the wild as they don’t reach this age or get these conditions.

      1. Thank you so much for that information, am so glad to find your info after reading the abc news I was sad because last night my little princess passed away .. my faithful companion never left me I used to say .. I told my grandson who was 4yrs old one day not to yell at Tara .. I said your mom wanted a pet and your Aunty but both left her and went .. he then says , then pa left too .. I said all left except for my Tara .. she left me last night 16 years my faithful dog was buried last night am heart broken..

  20. Thank you, very useful information since at the moment my pet cat, “Who” has had hyperthyroidism for over five years, has lately developed kidneys problems. So I´m prepared for whatever comes but my deeper concern is that I don’t like cremation.

    And as I live in a Strata Title village in Tasmania I was wondering if it is legal to bury a pet in my backyard. Any comment would very much appreciated

    1. Hi Elena.I couldn’t really comment on a strata title, but if you have the ability to do other things in your garden without asking consent, then you probably also have the right to do this. However, it wouldn’t hurt to ask at the next strata meeting.

  21. Hi Andrew, when a dog has to be put to sleep, is it best for a remaining dog to have contact with the dog who have now died, or should the burial take place without the other dog knowing. By that I don’t mean seeing the dog being buried.

    1. Hi Margaret. That’s a hard one. It seems right to let them view the body as long as they don’t see the burial. Whether it helps is anyone’s guess, but it doesn’t seem to hurt. I think that if a dog if quite dependant on a dog that died, there will always be a difficult time afterwards no matter what you do, whereas if two dogs are reasonably independent it always seems to be OK.

    2. Agree Margaret regarding the other dogs seeing your deceased dog. In 2015, we said goodbye to our 15 yr old Kelpie. Both of our other Kelpies were able to see and sniff her prior to us burying her in our back yard. We also knew that we would have to say goodbye to our 16 yr old Kelpie. We had a backhoe in to dig 2 graves Once again, our youngest Kelpie was able to see him and sniff him prior to us burying him. I quite often stand beside their graves and our other Kelpie on most occasions is there with me.

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