NYC

What To Do When Your Pet Has Died at Home

Dog looking out at sunset

The ASPCA wishes to extend our deepest condolences to those experiencing or anticipating the loss of a beloved pet. We understand that this is a very tough time for the whole family. Please know that the ASPCA is here for you should you need assistance working through your grief.

If your pet is under the care of a veterinarian at the time of his or her passing, the vet can guide you through the next steps. However, New Yorkers who do not have a relationship with a veterinarian often ask what they should do when a pet dies at home. Living in New York City, you are fortunate to have a wide range of options. Whether you want simply for the body to be removed from your home, or you wish to permanently memorialize your pet in some special way, the choice is yours.

Immediate Concerns

Depending on your decision, you may have to keep the body in your home for a short period of time, particularly if the death has occurred at night. A well-cooled body can be held for up to 24 hours, but as this is difficult to maintain in a home, the sooner it can be taken somewhere else, the better.

  • Placing the wrapped animal in a refrigerator or freezer is recommended, with one exception-if you plan to have a necropsy performed to determine cause of death, the body should not be frozen (refrigeration is still okay). It is essential that you contact a veterinarian as soon as possible if you would like a necropsy. 
     
  • If the animal is too big to be put into a refrigerator or freezer, the body should be placed on a cement floor or concrete slab-a cool, concrete floor is the best way to draw heat away from the carcass. Do not cover or wrap the body in this instance. Doing so will trap in heat and not allow the body temperature to cool.. 
     
  • As a last resort, if neither refrigeration nor concrete floors are options, you may keep the body in the coldest area of your home, out of the sun, packed with bags of ice. In this case, the body should be placed in a plastic bag to prevent it from getting wet. 
    The body will not decompose immediately, so there is no need to worry about odor. Also, contrary to common belief, other pets in the household will not be traumatized by seeing the body.

Individual and Communal Cremation

It is very common for pet owners to have their deceased pets cremated, and there are many places in the city that will handle this for you. You first need to decide if you wish to keep your pet's ashes as a remembrance. If so, you will want to arrange an individual (or private) cremation, meaning that your pet is cremated alone. This ensures that the remains returned to you are purely those of your pet. Businesses that offer individual cremation will have an assortment of urns and keepsake options for you to choose from and usually offer home pickup/delivery of remains as part of their service packages. One such business is Brooklyn-based Companion Cremation Services; this company also provides services to Long Island residents.

Companion Cremation Services 
102 Skillman Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 
(718) 388-0605

Burial

It is legal to bury an animal on your own property in New York City, but it is illegal to bury an animal on public lands such as parks.

If you desire burial for your pet and are not fortunate enough to have a garden of your own, you still have options. The first is Pet Haven, a company that serves the entire tri-state area. Pet Haven has a beautiful pet cemetery in the Poconos, and you can have as much or as little involvement with the burial as you are comfortable with. Pet Haven offers many other services as well-please visit the company's website to learn more.

Pet Haven Cemetery & Crematory
East End Avenue, NY, NY
(917) 608-9729

Bideawee, an animal welfare organization that serves metropolitan New York and Long Island, operates pet memorial parks in Wantagh, New York and Westhampton, New York. For information about pet memorial park locations, burial services, plot types and more, please visit the Bideawee website.

Fee-Free Options

The New York City Department of Sanitation will pick up animal remains that are left curbside. This service is free of charge, but there are specific rules that must be followed:

  • On your neighborhood's regular trash pickup day, place the animal in a heavy-duty, black plastic bag and put it in your usual collection spot. Tape a note to the bag stating "deceased animal inside."

If you have any questions about disposing of a deceased pet in this manner, please call 311, New York City's government and service information hotline.

If your pet dies at any time of year other than summer and your garbage collection day is several days away, you are presented with the problem of having to keep the body in your house for over 24 hours-which is unadvised unless it is in a freezer.

For further support dealing with the loss of a pet, including information on meeting the emotional needs of children at the time of a pet's death, call our Pet Loss Hotline at (877) GRIEF-10.