It’s hard to face the reality, but someday our beloved horse will take his last breath. What plans have you made to prepare for when that terrible day arrives? What options do we have in SLO County for the care and disposal of our large animals?
Recently, while perusing a Facebook newsfeed, I came across a thread which discussed the options available for large animal disposal in SLO County. The consensus was unanimous: We have limited large animal disposal options. I wondered if this was actually the case, or if our community simply doesn’t know about all of the options available to them. I turned to my industry expert contact, Christine Johnson, Former General Manager of Eden Memorial Pet Care, for some answers. She responded with, “We may provide cremation, but we need to be able to pass information about other options on.” So in order to serve the horse community, Christine did some research and came up with this list of large animal disposal options in SLO County.
Issues Regarding End-of-life for Large Animals
Before discussing the options related to large animal disposal in our community, we need to understand the issues surrounding said disposal, however unpleasant it may be. These are things that we will all have to consider before making a plan for our animals.
- A horse is a large body. If it can’t move itself, then you will have to move it, and you will need assistance. It takes about 1-7 hours for the body of a horse to go into “rigor mortis”– a condition which stiffens limbs, and makes moving the body even more difficult. However, this condition will soften as days go on and decomposition sets in. (1)
- Body fluids escape a dead body easily as muscles are no longer firing to keep these fluids in.
- You need to have an end-of-life plan for your horses so you won’t be caught off-guard when the need arises.
- Your decision will be based on your finances and what you are OK with regarding the final resting place of your horse.
(1) rig·or mor·’tis – stiffening of the body, 1-7 hours after death, from hardening of the muscular tissues as a consequence of the coagulation of the myosinogen and paramyosinogen; it disappears after 1-6 days or when decomposition begins.
What Are the Disposal Options for Large Animals?
Cremation – Cremation services require a team of trained individuals who can both retrieve and process the body of large animals in the proper manner. The folks at Eden Memorial Pet Care treat the body of your large animal with dignity and care throughout the process – starting with picking up the lifeless body, then placing it into the cremation chamber, and eventually returning the ashes to the owner.
Cremation is a more expensive option, but it does provide the comfort of knowing your animal is being cared for throughout the process, as well as giving you something lasting to keep. The wonderful team at Eden Memorial Pet Care is continuing to keep their price of cremation affordable to best serve the equestrian community.
Landfill Burial – Many people don’t know that you can take your deceased animal to a SLO County landfill for disposal. You will be responsible for getting the animal there and removing it from the trailer. The Cold Canyon Landfill has large animal disposals arrive early in the morning before the dump is open to the public. The body will then be pushed or buried into the landfill. You might also need to file a certificate with the California Food and Agricultural division.
Cold Canyon Landfill in San Luis Obispo (805-549-8332) charges $100 and they will not assist you in getting the body out of the trailer. If you don’t have a safety vest you may have to purchase one before unloading the body. Paso Robles Landfill (805-238-2028, cell 925-997-6041) charges $250 and needs a 4 hour notice before delivery. Chicago Grade Landfill in Templeton (805-466-2985, Ext. 12 2290) charges $500 per carcass. You probably want to call ahead to get updated price information and protocol for each Landfill.
Deceased Large Animal Hauling Options
Christine uses the services of Errick Hicks for hauling deceased large animals he operates with Kevin Buffet of Atascadero Hay and Feed. Their number is (805) 461-6411. This team will take your large animal to Eden Memorial Pet Care for cremation, bury it in your backyard or a friend’s backyard, or take the body to the landfill for you.
She also came across a dad/daughter team based in South SLO County/Santa Ynez area who will pick up your deceased animal and take it to the dump for you. They charge $350-$400, depending on the size of the animal and distance traveled. You can contact them at: John Charles Sarri/Ariane Vasquez (805) 588-3971.
The Equine Center in San Luis Obispo (805-541-6367) is a licensed dead animal hauler and will take horses to the landfill for you for an additional cost.
Other Large Animal Disposal Options
Tallow – Tallow is the product created by the rendering process done to an animal once it is deceased – this results in consumable and non-consumable by-products. A horse who was euthanized cannot be rendered for consumable products. Animals may only be eligible for consumable by-products within 24 hrs of death. SLO Tallow Works closed its doors quite a few years ago and the business was moved to Salinas Tallow Works, which has since closed as well. There are a few rendering facilities left in Kern County, but you will have to transport your deceased animal to them. A Tallow company may charge between $175-$250 to take a deceased large animal.
John Avila is a Kern Co based transportation service who will come to SLO County and take animals to Kern Co rendering facilities for $500-$600. His contact numbers are: 559-731-3344 and 559-688-5676.
Tulare Lab/UC Davis – These facilities will accept horses needing a necropsy. After the procedure, the animal will be sent to Baker Commodities in Tulare to be rendered. They do not provide a hauling service, but recommend John Avila (contact info above). The animal must be delivered within 24 hours of death.
Private property burial – The official word from SLO County Animal Services is: Any animal may be buried on private property as long as the burial location is 200 feet from a water source/well.
Have an Afterlife Care Plan for Your Horse
So there you have it, the large animal disposal options for SLO County. Please verify the information before taking action. Your decision will be based on your finances and what you are OK with regarding the final resting place of your horse. The best option right now while you enjoy your equine friend is to have an afterlife care plan so you can face the future with certainty and a clear head.
Cover Photo Credit: Sharon Jantzen
How will you communicate for your animals when you leave town? The Horse and Pet Care Communication Checklist enables you to gather all the vital information you need to communicate all the elements of all your animals’ care to your pet sitter. What if you suddenly had to leave town? Would you be ready for someone to quickly step in and take care of your animals? What if something happened to your horse or pet while you were away? Would your pet sitter know your wishes? This checklist will help you prepare your pet sitter to care for your animals the way you do. Get your Horse and Pet Care Free Checklist here >.
My father-in-law has some horses and he has been wondering what to do if one was to ever pass away. That is great that there are services that you can get to help take care of the disposal. That is pretty cool that you can get your animals cremated. I will have to see if he would like something like that planned. Thank you for the information!