Note: This message is displayed if (1) your browser is not standards-compliant or (2) you have you disabled CSS. Read our Policies for more information.
The responsibilities of owning animals does not end when an animal dies. In Indiana, state law requires an animal owner to dispose properly of all remains within 24 hours of learning of an animal's death.
The list of approved disposal methods is overseen by the Indiana State Board of Animal Health (BOAH) as a matter of health and safety. Without proper disposal, carcasses can threaten the health of wild and domestic animals, as well as the public. That's why failure to comply with disposal guidelines is a violation of Indiana law.
BOAH has approved six carcass disposal methods for animal remains: burial, incineration, composting, rendering, exotic animal feeding, and anaerobic and chemical digestion. (NOTE: These guidelines do not apply to small animal species, such as fish, reptiles, dogs, cats and small game. Wildlife, i.e., creatures not under someone's care, as well as dead livestock being transported by the owner to a rendering plant or a diagnostic facility are also exempt.)
Indiana also has a policy on Processing Animal Carcasses by Composting, Incineration, and Digestion.
Burial can be a cost-effective means of disposal. By law, the entire carcass must be buried at least 4 feet below the natural surface of the ground. All body parts must lie under 4 feet of earth, not including other types of covering material (such as mulch). Livestock owners should take care to avoid burying remains near waterways, ponds and places with a high water table.
"Thorough and complete incineration" of the carcass, including all bones, is another option for animal owners. While incineration can be convenient for those with access to the necessary equipment, producers need to realize that "complete incineration" is not likely to result from a simple burn pile in the backyard.
A barrel or burn pile generally will not sustain a sufficiently high temperature long enough to destroy the densest bones of a large animal carcass completely. Therefore, any animal matter remaining after incineration must be buried or otherwise discarded according to another approved disposal method.
Producers choosing to install an on-farm incinerator should contact Indiana Department of Environmental Management's (IDEM) Air Division to determine if a permit is required.
A common option is removing carcasses to an approved disposal plant. Rendering is popular as a convenient, clean and waste-free solution that ultimately recycles the remains into other products. The renderer generally provides on-farm pick-up for a fee. However, some companies are selective about which species they'll accept and geographic locations they'll serve.
A relatively new alternative for livestock owners, on-farm composting offers a convenient, albeit management-intensive option for producers.
By following a proven "recipe," an established on-farm composter can produce nutrient-rich organic matter suitable for field application in two months to three months. Dry organic material, like sawdust, is layered with animal remains to generate heat to speed decomposition. The compost site must be managed in a way that meets state rules.
Producers also have the option to transport carcasses to a common compost pile. Persons wanting to operate a communal compost pile, that accepts carcasses from outside sources, must obtain a disposal plant permit from BOAH.
More information about composting, including design and operation advice, is available through university extension services and by contacting any local USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office.
Originally banned in 2003, BOAH once again allows exotic animal feeding as a form of dead animal disposal. As the number of exotic animal farms has grown in Indiana, exotics owners have begun seeking out sources of dead livestock to feed to large cats and other unusual species. Livestock producers should ask if the exotic owner holds a state (not federal) exotic feeding permit before allowing a pick up of dead stock. Additionally, producers transporting animal carcasses must track where their carcasses are taken.
Individuals accepting carcasses for feeding must keep records of all the animals they receive and from whom. A description and date of each carcass fed must also be recorded. Animal carcasses must be completely disposed of within 72 hours of arriving at the premise.
Beginning in 2011, digestion is another convenient method of disposal similar to composting. The procedure must be conducted in accordance with state environmental laws and the system must not create a health hazard to humans or animals.
Producers may also consider discarding of dead animals at a local landfill. While landfill disposal qualifies as burial under BOAH guidelines, IDEM officials advise producers to contact the landfill manager for permission, before discarding of any animal matter.
All animal owners should also realize that these guidelines pertain only to state laws governing the disposal of dead animals. Some local communities and counties may have additional ordinances that regulate further what can be done. Local authorities should be consulted.