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Halacha requires certain burial practices for people, because people are special. Are there any requirements or, especially, prohibitions regarding pets who have died? Is it acceptable to cremate them, or must they be buried? If buried, are there requirements about how?

(The pets, of course, are not Jewish, but we have obligations to our animals while they live so I am wondering if there are any when they no longer do.)

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Interestingly related question: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/7699/… – avi Nov 15 '11 at 20:10
@DoubleAA, thanks for finding that! – Monica Cellio Nov 28 '12 at 13:41
up vote 10 down vote accepted

The Torah itself says (Ex. 22:30) that the meat of an animal that is tereifah (fatally injured) should be "thrown to the dogs." Now, granted, the animal wasn't necessarily a pet when it was alive (whether anyone back then kept pets is pretty uncertain anyway), but you had the obligation to feed it before yourself (Berachos 40a based on Deut. 11:15), and you couldn't work it on Shabbos (Ex. 20:10), yet we see that once the animal is dead you can dispose of it any way you want.

A couple of other sources that may bear on this:

  • Jeremiah (22:19) says of King Yehoyakim, "He will be buried like a donkey, dragged and cast outside the gates of Jerusalem." Radak paraphrases: just as a donkey's "burial" consists of dragging the carcass out and throwing it in the trash, so will be the fate of Yehoyakim's body. So evidently there is no need to treat a dead donkey with any kind of respect (and that's not an animal that otherwise might have been used for food).

  • The Mishnah (Temurah 7:4,6) lists various cases where a dead animal has to be either buried or burned, because it is prohibited for use (whether because of its sanctity, such as a disqualified offering; or as a punishment to its owner, like an ox that gored someone to death). The implication is that these cases have special rules because of these reasons, but that an ordinary animal carcass can be disposed of however you like.

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Ex. 22:30 is talking about animals that would otherwise be eaten (kosher species but died in the field instead of being slaughtered). I always assumed that "thrown to the dogs" was to prevent somebody from eating it. Can we generalize from that to animals that wouldn't have been candidates for the dinner table? – Monica Cellio Nov 15 '11 at 21:48
@Monica: but wouldn't burying it accomplish the same purpose (of preventing it from being eaten)? Yet we see that that's not necessary. But you're right, I'd have to look for a source that says something similar about non-food animals. – Alex Nov 15 '11 at 22:15
Thanks for the helpful additions. – Monica Cellio Nov 17 '11 at 13:44

I would very strongly assume that there are no prohibitions or guidelines, other than complying with local concerns for infection and the like.

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I've been assuming there are none but wanted to check that assumption. – Monica Cellio Nov 15 '11 at 20:15
Without a source this answer is not very useful. – HodofHod Nov 15 '11 at 21:01

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