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Before this post, I'd like to share with you a large animal disposal resource in Los Angeles County. My friend Roberta Warne (805) 523-1241 operates Dignified Dead Animal Removal. Her service includes removal with transport to the destination of your choice. Want to learn more? Click here to read what others have to say.
Now, on to my article about caring for your horse'e remains...
Whether you need immediate assistance because your horse has died unexpectedly, or want to plan for a euthanasia that may be close-at-hand, it’s important to choose a large animal removal service that meets your needs. In this post, I discuss equine aftercare options, taking a look at rendering, burial, and cremation.
Choosing the right service can be challenging, especially when operating under stress. While dealing with the practical necessities, the staff should treat you as you deserve to be treated – with compassion, respect, and professionalism.
One of the most affordable ways to dispose of your horse’s body is to have it removed and processed by a rendering company. For a nominal fee, a large animal removal service will pick up the carcass and transport it to a rendering plant.
Once there, your horse’s remains are processed into commercial products that are sold for use in lubricants, polish, soap, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, gelatin and fertilizers. And, under certain conditions, the remains of your horse may be processed into livestock rations, pet food, and shrimp feeds. A 2004 report by Los Angeles County Animal Shelters provides details of how euthanized animals are recycled in the rendering process:
"The remains are placed in large vats and heated to a high temperature in excess of 265 degrees Fahrenheit, at which point they become sterile and free of pathogens," the report states. "Then a series of mechanical (processes) occur that separate the fat, liquid and proteins into separate collection systems."
More recently, a 2014 article published in Environmental Technology explains how the rendering process releases odorous volatile compounds into the atmosphere. If these volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are not handled properly they can cause a serious environmental problem. During this process not all emitted compounds are odorous and hazardous. However, some of them have been found to be associated with health problems.
There is growing awareness about the high environmental impact of this disposal practice. The unnatural process of rendering introduces a host of harmful compounds into the environment and the resulting products are destined for non-human consumption (e.g., animal feeds, industrial products). In effect, our euthanized equine companions become part of the growing problem of pentobarbital in pet food. For horse owners preferring a more comforting choice, natural burial is emerging as welcome alternative.
Many horse owners prefer burial. With burial, your horse’s body is typically interred in a manner that does not inhibit decomposition but allows the body to recycle naturally. It’s a way of caring for your horse with minimal environmental impact while furthering legitimate ecological initiatives.
- Burial at Home – If you own land, you may want to bury your horse at home but be aware that zoning regulations in your area may prohibit this. This may also not be a good option if you’re likely to move from the property. If home burial isn’t right for your horse, there are other options including burial in a landfill or burial at a pet cemetery.
- Burial in a Landfill – For slightly more than the cost of rendering, a large animal removal service may be able to make arrangements for burial in a nearby landfill. For many families, having their horse buried in a landfill offers some comfort knowing the site will eventually be transformed from a neighborhood burden into the unspoiled land it was years ago. When returned to it’s natural state, native plants and greenery will help the environment, providing a home and shelter for other living things and becoming a living memorial for your horse.
- Burial in a Pet Cemetery – America’s first pet cemetery was established in 1896 by a New York City Veterinarian, who offered the apple orchard at his summer home to serve as a final resting place for a bereaved friend’s dog. That random act of kindness sparked an idea for what emerged as America’s first pet cemetery. While burial in a pet cemetery may cost you a few thousand dollars, this option offers you a way to honor the memory of your horse in perpetuity. You’ll have many choices of markers and other memorial products. And, you’ll always have a place where you can go to visit your equine friend.
If you don't like the idea of having your horse buried or if you would prefer to have an urn or chest as a memorial keepsake, then equine cremation might be the best option for you.
Ranging in price from $1,500 - $2,000, private equine cremation affords you the option of keeping your horse’s cremated remains at home in an urn or scattering the ashes at a favorite place. Your veterinarian may know of a large animal removal service which can coordinate the cremation arrangements for you. However, there are some questions to ask when considering cremation for your horse:
- Does the crematory offer whole horse (intact) cremation without quartering?
- Will the cremation be private?
- Does the staff clip, wash, and braid your horse’s tail as a remembrance?
- If your horse has shoes, will they be returned along with the cremains?
- Does the crematory offer a selection of urns or memory boxes?
- How will the cremated remains be shipped?
Equine cremation uses far fewer resources than almost any other aftercare option but it certainly has an environmental impact. Cremation burns fossil fuels, and some older cremation facilities can use significantly more energy compared to newer ones. While no standards yet exist that allow horse owners to determine which cremation retorts produce the most pollution and carbon emissions, there are several things that can be done to “green up” equine cremation such as recycling horseshoes, and making a contribution to a carbon fund.
Many horse owners prefer to use a large animal removal company that provides compassionate and dignified aftercare services. If it’s important for you to see that your horse’s remains are treated with the same concern and care that you gave your equine companion during his life, then you should ask your veterinarian for recommendations.
When it comes to caring for your horse’s remains, there is no right or wrong answer – it is what is right for you and your situation. It’s important for you to deal with a large animal removal company where you have options, the choices are yours, and the services are tailored to you. While losing a horse is heart breaking, an informed decision can help make this transition both meaningful and personal.
Sorba, M. (2010). Firm gives remains of euthanized pets another use. The Sun News. Retrieved from http://www.sbsun.com/general-news/20100208/firm-gives-remains-of-euthanized-pets-another-use
Bhatti, Z, et al. (2014). Rendering plant emissions of volatile organic compounds during sterilization and cooking processes. Environmental Technology, Volume 35, Issue 11. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09593330.2013.867364?journalCode=tent20#preview
Khuly, P. (2010). The truth about pet foods and rendering. petMD. Retrieved from http://www.petmd.com/blogs/fullyvetted/2010/oct/rendered_barbiturates-10474
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