Veterinary Compliance Assistance


Carcass Disposal State Regulations


Depending on circumstances, large animal carcass disposal may be regulated by a state's solid waste, medical waste, agriculture, or emergency management regulations. If your state does not provide specific guidance or regulations relating to large animal carcass disposal, check with your local health department, or city/county laws and ordinances.

In addition, during emergency situations and disasters (e.g., blizzards, floods, hurricanes, mass die-offs, etc.), consult with your local emergency officials, your state emergency planning agency, or the state veterinarian, to determine approved methods of carcass disposal.

Applicable Agencies and Regulations for California

California Department of Food and Agriculture

Address: 1220 N Street, Sacramento, CA 95814

Contact Information:

Rules and Regulations: CDFA Code 9141 - 9143. This code only applies to animals that die from a contagious disease and states that they must be cremated or buried immediately, not be transported except to a crematory and not be used for food. The CDFA does not regulate carcass disposal for animals that have not died from contagious diseases when the carcasses are disposed of on-site.

Rules and Regulations: California Section 17855.2 Prohibitions. The composting of unprocessed mammalian tissue, including but not limited to, flesh, organs, hide, blood, bone and marrow is prohibited, except when from the food service industry, grocery stores, or residential food scrap collection, or as part of a research composting operation for the purpose of obtaining data on pathogen reduction or other public health, animal health, safety, or environmental concern, in accordance with section 17862.

California Environmental Protection Agency

Address: 1001 I Street, Sacramento, CA 95812-2815

Contact Information:

Rules and Regulations: Emergency Animal Disposal: Cal/EPA Emergency Response and Disaster Preparedness. The following summary of the Emergency Animal Disposal Guidance prescribes the following hierarchical set of animal mortality management practices: Temporary storage of carcasses for transport to rendering, disposal at permitted landfills, on-site composting, on-site burial. Disposal options addressed:

  • Rendering: This is the preferred means of animal disposal offering a relatively safe and integrated system that complies with the fundamental requirements of environmental quality and disease control.

  • Landfilling: If rendering capacity is exceeded or suspended, permitted landfilling offers the next best environmental solution.

  • Burial: On-site burial is the least desirable and environmentally safe alternative. This alternative applies only to on-site burial of animals that died on the owner's property and that will be buried on the same property.

  • Composting: If the condition of the carcasses precludes transportation to the landfill or the cost of transportation and disposal is prohibitive, on site composting offers the next best solution (3rd choice). This alternative applies only to composting of animals that died on the owner's property and that will be composted on the same property.

Rules and Regulations: Emergency Animal Disease - Regulatory Guidance for Disposal and Decontamination. Disposal of large numbers of animal carcasses from a disease outbreak or a natural disaster should be (from most to least preferred method): stored temporarily for transport to rendering, disposed at permitted landfills, composted on-site, buried on-site.

More Information

Emergency Animal Disposal Guidelines. A summary of guidance developed and approved by the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA) and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) in 2004 for the management of animal mortalities on farms and ranches under a declared emergency.

CAL/EPA Emergency Animal Disease: Regulatory Guidance for Disposal and Contamination (2004). This document anticipates the environmental and human health issues arising from the immediate disposal of a large number of animal carcasses. The primary focus is an animal disease outbreak, with a secondary recognition that emergencies can result from toxic exposure or a natural disaster. The document describes disposal options that can be rapidly implemented under most emergency conditions.

The Cornell Waste Management Institute (CWMI) maintains a database of carcass disposal state regulations promulgated by state environmental, agricultural and other agencies. There may be additional information on this site, not found on VetCA, that can be helpful to veterinarians, ranchers and farmers. Click here to access the CWMI information for California.

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