Q: I had always assumed that when the time came, it would be all right to bury my horse on my land, but a friend has said this is illegal. Is this true and if so what other options are there?

A: In England, horses that are kept as pets can be buried on their owners’ or other land, provided the owner obtains the agreement of their local authority and follows its advice regarding burial.

The local authority has to agree that the horse is a pet rather than livestock, which cannot be buried. Horses not kept as pets and other livestock “must be delivered to a premises approved under the regulation for proper collection and disposal (eg: hunt kennel, knacker yard, incinerator operator)” in accordance with EU Animal By-Products Regulation (EC) no 1774/2002.

The animal owner can join the National Fallen Stock Scheme, which for a set fee provides information about local disposal services.

The reason these horses do not fall into the same category as other livestock is because horses are not normally kept for human consumption in the UK, unlike other European countries, so they can benefit from a derogation (partial repeal)
for pet animals under article 24 of Animal By-Products Regulation (EC) no 1774/2002.

Horse owners must comply with all stipulations made by their local authority regarding the burial site. The authority is likely to state that it must be:

  • at least 250m away from any well borehole or spring that supplies water
  • at least 30m from any other spring or watercourse, and at least 10m from a field drain
  • have at least 1m of subsoil below the bottom of the burial pit, allowing a hole deep enough for at least 1m of soil to cover the carcass
  • when first dug, the bottom of the hole must be free of water

However, each authority may have its own separate guidelines.

Horse owners in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should consult their respective non-agricultural departments for advice.

In England, for more information (tel: 08459 335577) or visit www.defra.gov.uk