What Do Animal Shelters Do with the Bodies of Dead Pets?

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Learn what happens to the bodies of the dead pets at animal shelters. Do animal shelters cremate the pets they put to sleep? Where do animal shelters take the bodies of pets they euthanize?

While every animal shelter is slightly different they way they handle the dead pets some things are the same.  Learn more about how animal shelters deal with the bodies of the dead pets.

Dead on Arrival

This refers to animals brought in already dead, such as those found on the road, with no known owner. Most shelters hold live stray animals for at least 72 hours in an effort to track down their owners and the same thing applies to dead pets; in that the animal shelter keeps the body for 72 hours.

First the shelter staff scans the pet for a microchip, these are usually along the back but can move in rare cases. The staff makes a “found” report on the pet noting its breed, gender, color, and approximate age. Depending on the condition of the body, the staff will also check for a tattoo, these could be in the ear, or on the inner leg (as with dogs). Of course they also check for a collar and tags. If identification is found the shelter tries to contact the owner, and most shelters are required to hold identified pets for up to 10 days.

The deceased pet is then put in a heavy duty plastic garbage bag, a tag is fitted around the closure of the bag indicating what pet is inside, and the pet is kept for the required amount of time in case an owner should be found and may want to claim their pet's body for burial or cremation.

Euthanized Pets in the Shelter

When the animal shelter has to euthanize cats or dogs, they usually do so on a specific day every week, the exception would be if a pet is ill or in so much pain it cannot wait until euthanasia day. Those pets that are euthanized at other times are then also put into the heavy duty plastic garbage bag, and stored in the deep freeze.

On euthanasia day shelters may euthanize a few, or hundreds, of pets, depending on the size of the shelter and their holding capacity. As such many dead cats may be put into a bag together. One to three dogs may be placed in a bag, depending on their size.

The bags are then either placed in the deep freeze or typically disposed of that day. Shelters often coordinate their euthanasia with body disposal so they do not have to store so many bodies in their freezers.

How do Animal Shelter's Dispose of the Bodies?

Animal Shelters vary in the ways they dispose of the bodies according to what they have available. There are three general methods of body disposal: Cremation, garbage, or sale.  In any case the bodies are contained in special heavy duty plastic bags, sometimes many animals will be in the same bag.

Cremation allows for the shelter to burn the bodies of pets. However, not all animal shelters can afford this so many send the bagged bodies of animals to a special part of the city landfill (garbage dump). The third option is not as common as it use to be, and generally not done in the charity run shelters, but more common in city run “pounds” - this is when the bodies are sold to research labs, dissection supply companies, or rendering facilities where they may actually be rendered down and put into pet food (on the ingredient list - dead pets may be in meatmeal).

Author Brenda Nelson worked in an animal shelter for five years, and learned the basic workings of animal shelters, how they cared for pets, and what they did with the bodies of the deceased pets.

Related Reading

If Animal Shelters want to Save Pets, Why not give them away for Free?

Difference between No-Kill and Other Animal Shelters


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