Pet Burial: Everything You Need to Know

The loss of a beloved family pet can be a truly upsetting time. The animals – of all shapes and sizes – that we welcome into our lives become integral members of the family unit, and we forge a bond that is difficult to let go of. For children in particular, a pet’s departure can be an important lesson in coping with future grief, meaning that you will want to mark it with the significance it deserves. There are many ways to remember a pet, but you may feel that you wish to bury their remains and create a dignified, dedicated spot for remembrance.

The rules of pet burial can seem confusing as they depend on several factors. Stories in the media about fines and court cases can also add stress and pressure at a time that is already upsetting. However, the laws in the UK around pet burial are actually relatively straightforward. Here’s everything you need to know about creating a place of remembrance for your beloved pet.

What does UK law say about pet burial?

Under legislation last updated in 2013, you are permitted to bury animals within the grounds of your own home, subject to certain conditions:

  • You must own, not rent, the land where the pet is buried.
  • The pet must not be buried near any water sources.
  • There must be two feet of earth above the pet in heavy soils, and three feet in lighter soils.
  • The pet’s remains must not be hazardous to human health. (This is a very rare occurrence, in which a vet can refuse to release remains for burial if certain controlled drugs have been used. A written explanation can be requested.)

It is illegal, however, to bury a pet anywhere except the home where they lived, or at a registered pet cemetery. This means that you cannot bury a pet in a public place such as a local park, or even at a friend’s house if you do not have a garden of your own.

How can I find a pet cemetery?

Using a registered pet cemetery will allow you to create a lasting resting place that will remain the same even if you move home – with the peace of mind that all legal regulations are being followed. You can find your nearest pet cemetery or pet crematorium by visiting the website of The Association of Private Pet Cemeteries and Crematoria

pet burial / cemetery
Pet graveyard more than 100 years old in London Hyde park

How quickly do I need to bury my pet?

If you are not planning to bury your pet immediately, you should store the remains at a temperature below 4°C, which will give you a few days to make preparations. If they are stored at a temperature below freezing then this gives you much longer – however, for larger animals it is recommended that you bury them as soon as possible as rigor mortis can set in making the remains more difficult to move.

If you have other pets, it is a good idea to let them see the remains. This encounter may amount only to a few sniffs but it will allow them to understand what has happened, rather than wondering where their companion has gone.

How much does it cost to bury a pet?

It costs nothing to bury a pet at home – however, if you wish to bury your pet at a dedicated cemetery then the price will depend upon the size as well as your chosen site. The price of pet burial is usually in the region of several hundred pounds.

How to bury a dog or cat at home

Once your dog or cat has passed away, place the body in a waterproof material. You may also wish to wrap your pet in a blanket or towel. Placing your them in a sleeping position may bring you comfort and it will also make moving the body easier once the grave has been dug.

When selecting a spot in your garden for burial, take care not to choose anywhere that is likely to be excavated in future, such as a flowerbed. Ensure the grave is a safe distance from water sources and underground pipes. Measuring your cat or dog will make it easier to determine the amount of ground you need to dig out. 

Remember that your pet should be buried at least three feet deep in light soil and two feet deep in heavy soil (and dig deeper than this in order to allow space for the remains). Once you have positioned your pet and filled in the grave, ensure that you place stones, slabs or a heavy plant pot on the top. This will protect the resting place and ensure that scavenging animals such as foxes are not able to get to it.

You can accompany the burial with a service of memorial which may bring comfort to your family – reciting songs, poems or sharing memories will help everyone to process the loss of their beloved companion.

How much does it cost to have a pet cremated?

Cremation can offer a number of options when it comes to remembering your pet. Having the ashes returned to you means that you can choose to scatter or bury them in your garden (if placed in a biodegradable container), or appoint a resting place at the pet crematorium which can be accompanied by a memorial plaque

Pet cremation is less expensive than pet burial – again, it is dependent upon the size of your pet and your choice of crematorium, but prices tend to range between £100 and £200.