Virginia Pet Burial Laws

By Wilhelm Schnotz
A gravestone at a pet cemetery.

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The death of a pet is traumatic enough, and deciding the best way to send off your beloved companion may be the last thing you want to do. However, the Commonwealth of Virginia provides a variety of burial and disposal options for grieving pet owners. These options also are available to residents who must dispose of deceased livestock, such as horses and cows.

Burial and Cremation of Animals

Virginia law requires owners of animals to dispose of their bodies when they die. Owners may cremate or bury the animal, with no regulations concerning burial depth or gravesite locations. If you fail to attend to the body of an animal, an official may cremate the animal and charge you for the service. Failure to comply with this law, which is intended to apply to farm animals instead of pets, is a Class 4 misdemeanor.

Declaring Use for a Pet Cemetery

Virginia landowners who intend to use a parcel of land as a pet cemetery must file a land use declaration stating that intention with the nearest circuit court. Once the court clerk files the declaration, the land must be used as a pet cemetery.

Perpetual Care Trusts

A pet cemetery operator in Virginia cannot advertise his property as a perpetual-care resting place unless he sets aside funds to adequately ensure perpetual care. Before burying any pets in a perpetual-care pet cemetery, the operator must permanently place at least $12,000 in an irrevocable trust with the Commonwealth. Money generated from the trust will be used solely for pet cemetery upkeep.

Closing and Moving Pet Cemeteries

If a pet cemetery operator wants to remove the cemetery restriction on land and develop it for other use, Virginia law requires her to contact the owners of pets buried in the cemetery and give them the option of moving their pet's remains to a different location. The cemetery operator remains responsible for removal and reburial of pets, and must provide written proof to pet owners when the job is completed.

About the Author

Wilhelm Schnotz has worked as a freelance writer since 1998, covering arts and entertainment, culture and financial stories for a variety of consumer publications. His work has appeared in dozens of print titles, including "TV Guide" and "The Dallas Observer." Schnotz holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Colorado State University.

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