Can You Legally Bury a Pet — or a Relative — in Your Yard in NJ?
A few states have laws that prevent a pet from being buried in your yard. But what about New Jersey?
I realize this is a morbid subject but it's something that countless pet owners do.
Perhaps you have asked yourself the same question, especially in a state where just about everything seems to have a law or regulation (or tax) associated with it.
Having grown up with many cats and dogs, when one passed away we never really thought twice about burying them in our backyard. We just did it. But is it legal in the Garden State?
Best that I can tell, yes it is. But there are some details worth sharing.
First of all, I'm basing that answer on several websites which seem to almost all reference a website for a wildlife removal company in North Jersey:
If it is your pet that died, you can put it inside a box like a coffin and put something in its possession like a lace. Dig a hole big enough to fit the box or put (the) carcass in the hole. The hole must at least two feet deep to prevent (a) flood from washing it away.
They also recommend putting a layer of stones over the grave to keep other animals from disturbing it.
While that's not an "official" answer, while researching this topic, I wasn't able to find any actual statutes from the State of New Jersey that made this act against the law.
You still need to check
While the state itself apparently doesn't prohibit burying a furry friend in your backyard, your local municipality might so check with your city or township.
What if I move?
Well, that's a bit tricky. Obviously, you don't want to shock the people that just bought your house when they go to do some new landscaping -- and I'm sure you have no interest in exhuming a pet. That's something that you really need to consider.
There are quite a few pet cemeteries in New Jersey. Contact your local veterinarian's office for more information or search online.
Can my pet be buried with me?
Some people get so attached that they want to be buried with their pets -- can you do that in New Jersey? Well, that's a little complicated.
Until researching this topic, I wasn't aware that there is a New Jersey Cemetery Board (comprised of ten people) that regulates things like this. They say,
No. By statute..."cemetery" means any land or place used or dedicated for use for burial of human remains or disposition of cremated human remains. A cemetery, by definition, may not accept pets, unless it is exclusively a pet cemetery.
Can you be buried with your pet?
While you cannot have your pet buried in a cemetery for humans, apparently it is legal in New Jersey for a person to be buried in a pet cemetery as long as the human remains have been cremated. Several websites for law firms say this is OK.
Can a human be buried on private property?
I didn't set out looking for an answer to this question, but when I discovered the New Jersey Cemetary Board, I found a big list of questions and answers. One of them is if it's legal to bury a person in your yard.
The answer: no. Well, almost no.
The only place that burial can take place in New Jersey is on land that is dedicated for cemetery purposes. For your property to be used for burial, you would have to apply to the New Jersey Cemetery Board for a Certificate of Authority to operate as a "cemetery company."
The FAQs page on the New Jersey Cemetary Board website has some very helpful information, if you would like to do some additional research.