Legal Insight. Business Instinct.

Disposal of dead animals

For any number of reasons, animals up and die. Cows get sick, horses get old, and Idaho winters are hard on any kind of livestock. Inevitably, Idaho farmers and ranchers are faced with the problem of disposing of dead animals.

Idaho law requires that dead animals be disposed of within 72 hours. IDAPA

This can be accomplished in a number of ways:

1. Dead Animal Pit. Dead animals can be hauled to an approved dead animal pit. IDAPA Most counties have a dead animal pit that will accept carcasses. Vehicles used for transporting dead animals must be prepared so that no fluids seep from the vehicle during transport, and the dead animal must be concealed from public view during transport. Id. at .040.01-02. Also, vehicles hauling dead animals must travel directly to their destination (no stopping at the grocery store with a dead animal in the back of the pickup). Id. at .040.03.

2. Rendering. Dead animals can be taken to a rendering facility. The facility must be licensed and approved. Idaho currently has only one rendering facility located in Boise. IDAPA

3. Burial. Dead animals can be buried on your land so long as every part of the animal is buried under at least three feet of earth and the animal is buried no closer than 300 feet from any water, well, lake or spring. Additionally, the buried animal must be at least 50 feet from property lines, 300 feet from residences, and 100 feet from roadways. IDAPA

4. Composting/Incineration. Where approved by the Idaho Department of Agriculture, animals may be composted or incinerated. These methods require pre-approval and are rarely an option. IDAPA, Id. at .030.08.

5. Decomposition. Perhaps the easiest and the least expensive option is letting nature take her course. When animals die on private or state rangeland from causes other than significant infectious disease, they may be left to decompose naturally provided they are at least ¼ mile from any wells, lakes, ponds, water supplies, streams, public roads, or any residence not owned by the owner of the dead animal. IDAPA (It may also be a good idea to make sure your neighbors are upwind of any decomposing animal.)

House pets less than one hundred pounds in weight are exempt from the rules (you can bury the cat in the tulips next to the house). IDAPA Otherwise, any person violating the rules regarding disposal of dead animals may be subject to civil and criminal penalties, and the ire of their neighbors.

– Lance J. Schuster is an attorney at Beard St. Clair Gaffney. He and his wife raise kids and cattle on their small farm near Idaho Falls. He can be reached at 523-5171 or

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