Are there any safety concerns in eating fruit and veggies from plants that have been growing where dead pets have been buried?

Not a full blown pet cemetery, but a small and intimate location in the backyard where the beloved family dog or cat has gone for a dirt nap.

Does the rotting flesh of the animal corpse affect the ground water or soil in a way that the produce from plants in the immediate area should not be ingested?

They didn't cark it from rabies or other such ailments. Just dead of other causes not diseased. They were buried 6 months ago in a rather shallow grave, about 30 centimetres (a foot) deep and the plants (carrots, baby tomatoes and a few chillis) are in a 1 metre (roughly 3 feet) radius of such.


2 Answers 2


Some wisdom from the Lion King:

Mufasa: Everything you see exists together, in a delicate balance. As king, you need to understand that balance, and respect all the creatures-- from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope.

Simba: But, Dad, don't we eat the antelope?

Mufasa: Yes, Simba, but let me explain. When we die, our bodies become the grass. And the antelope eat the grass. And so we are all connected in the great Circle of Life.


Lots of good reasons to plant over their dead animals, heck we plant our baby's placentas under trees as a celebration of their birth!

The thing to worry about with a shallow grave is having grave robbers (dogs, wolves, etc..) coming and digging up what you've put there. That's what you really want to avoid.

Having the entire circle of life in your backyard is not advisable.

The real point is whatever you put in the ground. Make sure it stays in the ground. You mentioned you used a relatively shallow grave.

Given the gasses built up in your pets body I'd say it could be about half the depth you buried it at from the surface. If you shift the soil from underneath the ground you could wind up with cracks in the dirt exposing the roots if your plants to the atmosphere. I'm not sure how you're going to plant a tree directly over this, but I wouldn't plant a tree next to something likely to be dug up.

Note: this is not meant as a complete answer medical and I wouldn't expect it to be accepted since I don't have any expertise and I abhor googling for the sake of answering a question you already know the answer to, do it yourself if you want to. As a person who has buried fish and placentas in his garden and lawn I thought I'd give an experiential answer.


First, some interesting reading (at least I think so):

From above comments: It's now been six months since the ceremony

I'm guessing here a little (call it a "slightly" educated guess if you will), but I very much doubt if the pet has yet been fully turned into dust, worm castings, soil, etc.

Buried below the surface of the ground, in uncontrolled conditions isn't the most effective way of returning the once living into "life" giving material. Also you're not going to get the "cooking" temperatures of something like, Composting Dead Swine:

Q. What about diseases, flies and pathogens?

A. Temperatures above 140°F (60°C) normally occur at some time in the composting pile. This is sufficient to destroy pathogens and prevent fly incubation. Good coverage of the composting pile with sawdust eliminates the fly breeding and incubation environment. No disease outbreaks have been associated with composting to date. Spreading finished compost in fields or pastures helps assure that disease organisms do not find their way back to the production area.

Also a good look around the web, "generally" recommends a buried depth of 2 to 3ft (600 to 900mm) for larger pets eg Cats, dogs, etc.

  • It's deep enough to keep scavengers away.

  • It's also deep enough not be a concern in nearly all gardening practices.

From above comments: From memory, not directly above, but close enough to spook. Carrots, baby tomatoes and a few chillis are planted there.

I honestly think you will be ok! especially with the crops you harvest from above ground, but please do remember I'm no expert on such things.

That said, I might be a little hesitant with the Carrots or any other deep rooted crop for the first year or two, seeing as the pet was buried "shallow". I would feel totally different about this, if the pet had been buried the "generally" recommended 2 to 3ft (600 to 900mm) below the surface.

Additionally if you practice "safe" harvesting techniques eg.

  • Wash, clean and store properly.

  • Discard any crops that look like they may be "damaged" somehow, or at least the part (area) that looks "damaged".

I believe you will further reduce any possible risk there might be that much more.

Hope the above helps a little, and sorry I couldn't give you a definitive answer.

  • 4
    FWIW: "6 feet under" originally referred to the fact that six feet of dirt was sufficient to keep the noxious fumes from reaching the surface. So long as you can't smell it, it's not going to bother you. So if 2 feet is nominally sufficient to keep the odor of decomp away, then 3 feet away would certainly protect the vegetables as well. As for the rotting carcasses "infecting" the veggies, that's what the bugs and the bacteria are for. Don't you worry about those things.
    – jcolebrand
    Commented Aug 3, 2011 at 21:43

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