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End of life decisions are challenging, especially when mourning a companion. Photo courtesy Jenny Engel.

State laws govern the proper disposal of horse carcasses. Improper handling can result in fines and, in some cases, imprisonment.  In addition to state regulations, many counties have additional regulations concerning the disposal of horse carcasses.

Options for disposing of horse carcasses include:

Burial:  Bury carcasses deep enough to prevent predator disturbance and far enough away from streams and other water sources to prevent contamination. Pet cemeteries sometime offer horse burial.

Cremation:  A typical burn pile does not burn at high enough heat to handle a horse carcass. Many cremation facilities can accommodate horses.

Rendering:  Facilities accept only dead animals. Owners pay a fee to remove and transport it to a nearby rendering facility. Rendering facilities then break down the carcass for other uses or, in the case of diseased or drugged horses, safe disposal.

Composting:  With proper preparation and space, composting may be an option. Composting horse carcasses is illegal in some places and limited by weight in others. This six to nine month process involves burying the carcass in a composting mound. The pile must reach 130 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit and maintain a carbon to nitrogen ratio of 40 to 65 percent, with proper moisture and aeration. Do not use compost generated in this manner on food crops.

Landfill:  Few landfills accept large animal carcasses. Call to find out if your local landfill accepts them.

Necropsy Donation:  Contact your university veterinary hospital or veterinary research facility to learn whether they accept carcasses. Donations of equines with a peculiar disease are more likely to be accepted.

Biodigesters:  Some universities and research institutions have biodigesters, machines that separate the chemicals and matter that make up carcasses. Some institutions process horse carcasses for a per pound fee.

For more information and local regulations, visit your Extension Office here or here.