Responsible Home Burial and Pentobarbital: Understanding the Risks and Considerations

In the moments following the loss of a pet, the decisions about their final resting place can be emotional. Many pet owners opt for home burial as a way to honor their companions, but there are important considerations to keep in mind, particularly when it comes to the use of pentobarbital, a drug used in euthanasia.

Pentobarbital, a barbiturate anesthetic, poses risks beyond its primary function of humane euthanasia. When a pet is laid to rest after being euthanized with pentobarbital, there are two significant concerns: environmental contamination & scavenger risk.

Pentobarbital is extremely dangerous in soil and water, posing environmental risks. When a pentobarbital-laden body is buried, there is a risk of runoff during rainfall events. This runoff can carry pentobarbital into nearby waterways, contaminating streams, rivers, and groundwater. Pentobarbital can persist in aquatic environments, where it can be ingested by aquatic organisms. Through bioaccumulation, the concentration of pentobarbital can increase as it moves up the food chain, posing risks to fish, amphibians, wildlife and even other pets.

The drug remains largely unmetabolized in the tissues of the deceased animal, maintaining its chemical structure. If scavenger animals consume the remains, they could inadvertently overdose, leading to severe consequences, including fatalities. This risk extends beyond wildlife to include endangered or threatened species, raising ethical and legal concerns.

At Paws into Grace, we believe in not only providing compassionate euthanasia services but also in educating pet owners about responsible burial practices. Here are some key considerations to bear in mind:

  1. Burial Property: Ensure you own the property or have explicit permission to use it for burial.
  2. Depth: Bury the pet between 3 to 5 feet deep to allow microbial decomposition and to deter wildlife.
  3. Utility and Tree Roots: Avoid buried utility lines and damaging tree roots by researching the burial site beforehand.
  4. Flood Plains: Choose a burial spot that is level or slightly elevated to prevent water pooling and potential contamination.

Our responsibility as pet caregivers extends beyond their lifetime, and by making informed decisions about burial, we can honor their memory while safeguarding the environment and wildlife around us.

Sources:

caetainternation.org; Doing More to Inform on Pet Burial and Body Handling Following Pentobarbital Use

Krueger B., Krueger K.A. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Fact Sheet: Secondary Pentobarbital Poisoning of Wildlife. [(accessed on 28 February 2018)];2002 Available online: https://www.fws.gov/initiative/protecting-wildlife

Testimonials

I can't recommend them enough. I had to say goodbye to my 21 year old cat companion. I read the reviews here on Yelp and chose Paws Into Grace and they made an unbearable situation not worse - from the people on the phone to the amazing doctor who... read more

Renee C.

My absolute love Dante had heart failure three months ago. After having him on many medications to help him, his enthusiasm and appetite declined last couple of days. He was in pain and we decided to help him go to heaven rather than torturing him... read more

Diane C.

I wanted to thank you for sending Dr. Brown to euthanize our beloved Myleigh on March 4, 2021. She was compassionate and accommodating, she explained every step of the procedure, and gave us some alone time with Myleigh after she sedated her, but... read more

Terry A.

Renee C.

I can't recommend them enough. I had to say goodbye to my 21 year old cat companion. I read the reviews here on Yelp and chose Paws Into Grace and they made an unbearable situation not worse - from the people on the phone to the amazing doctor who came out to the house. She was so understanding and supportive. They were all so helpful, understanding and nice. My girl got to stay at home and say goodbye in the backyard (a hummingbird flew over and it seemed like a good sign too). So glad I didn't have to take her to a cold vet office.

Diane C.

My absolute love Dante had heart failure three months ago. After having him on many medications to help him, his enthusiasm and appetite declined last couple of days. He was in pain and we decided to help him go to heaven rather than torturing him with more medications which would make him even more miserable. I called and spoke to a very kind lady who was patient as I cried through making an appointment. We made an appointment for 1:30pm. Dr. Toni arrived. She was very kind, explained everything to us and gave us the time to be with our boy after the first shot. He wasn't relaxing enough so she gave him a second shot. We stayed with him throughout the entire process and I carried him to her car in the end. It was a very difficult decision but knowing that our boy is not in pain, gives us some peace. We are thankful to Dr. Toni for her kindness and compassion. They will arrange the cremation for us. Since we are in a pandemic, we had our masks on and said goodbye to our boy in our garden.

Terry A.

I wanted to thank you for sending Dr. Brown to euthanize our beloved Myleigh on March 4, 2021. She was compassionate and accommodating, she explained every step of the procedure, and gave us some alone time with Myleigh after she sedated her, but before she attached the IV. We were relieved that we made the decision to let her go to doggy heaven at home. It was a tranquil and serene passing for her, and it very much aids us in the grieving and healing process knowing that she passed away so peacefully. Based on the grace and compassion Dr. Brown demonstrated on one of the most awful days of our lives we would not hesitate to recommend Paws Into Grace for others facing this very painful time.
San Diego Orange County Cremation Office