Ask the Expert: Carcass disposal options

By Krishona Martinson
University of Minnesota

Question: I am concerned I will have to euthanize my old mare before next spring/summer. What are the options for horse disposal in Minnesota, especially during the winter?

Response: Minnesota horse owners have options for disposal of a carcass. The State of Minnesota regulates these options and involves the Departments of Agriculture, Natural Resources, Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), and Board of Animal Health (MBAH).

The legal options for disposing of horse carcasses in Minnesota include burial, composting, incineration, and rendering.

Carcasses must be buried 5 feet above the season-high water table and not in soils that are within 10 feet of bedrock. When composting, the carcass must be completely covered by a carbon source (i.e. sawdust) and monitored for temperature, oxygen level and moisture. With incineration, carcasses must be incinerated in a MPCA approved incinerator. Vehicles that haul carcasses for rendering services need to be inspected and permitted by the MBAH.

During the winter months, burial is a difficult option in Minnesota because of frozen ground. However, large equipment can break through the frost to make burial possible and an area can be tented and heated to remove frost and make burial easier in the winter months.

For more information on carcass disposal in Minnesota, visit the Minnesota Board of Animal Health’s website at