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Jessi gives her advice for the afterlife care of companion animals and shares some of the other options Animal Wonders has when an animal ambassador passes away.

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Hi. Welcome back to Animal Wonders. We get a lot of people wondering about a lot of animal related things, and sometimes people are unsure if their question is an appropriate one to ask.
I think if your question is based in curiosity and a desire to understand a concept, then it's an appropriate question.
That said, the question being raised is: What do you do with an animal's body after they've died?

I think this is an important thing to talk about, because a lot of people are going to encounter this situation at some point in their life.  And being prepared might help during this sad time when you might be grieving.  There are several options for end of life and afterlife care.  If the animal is humanely euthanized by a veterinarian, the clinic usually offers the option of cremation.  If you choose cremation, the animal's body is cared for by the vet clinic, and they could either keep the ashes or return them to you in a small vessel. 

The other option is to take the animal's body with you to lay to rest on your own.  If you choose to take them home, you have several options depending on where you live.  If you live in a rural area, you have the option to bury their body on your property.  However, you need to make sure that the grave site doesn't interfere with any human water systems, because the process of decomposition could lead to pathogens entering clean drinking water. 

If you live in the city, there are usually laws around burying a deceased pet in your yard.  So if that's not an option, you can either choose cremation or find a friend who lives outside of city limits and create a final resting place on their property.  Now, their are times when an animal doesn't come to the end of their life in a vet clinic.  Sometimes their death is unexpected or they pass away at home.  This can be hard because sometimes you'll have to handle the situation on your own. 

My first recommendation would be to take a breath and find a blanket to cover your deceased friend.  This gives the situation some respect and allows you to calm your emotions.  The next thing you must decide is how you would like to arrange their afterlife care.  Would you like them to be cremated, or would you like to and are able bury them in a grave.  If you'd like to bury them, go ahead and find your site and dig a hole that's at least three feet deep.  Wrap the blanket around their body and bury them.  I would recommend placing a large stone or pallet over the site to mark the spot and prevent anything from disturbing it.

If you'd like to have them cremated by your vet, go ahead and wrap them in the blanket and drive them to your clinic.  If for whatever reason you need to wait a day or two before burying or cremating them (like if your vet clinic isn't open), then you'll need to keep their body safe until you're ready to lay them to rest.

Even after death, life continues to go on, and the process of decomposition will begin soon. To stall the cycle, you're going to need to make their body really cold. You can do this by wrapping their body in a blanket and then creating an airtight barrier. This can be achieved by a large plastic bag tied at the top. You can then place them in the freezer or another cold place, like a large cooler with ice packs around them. This will keep them safe and prevent pathogens from harming you and the rest of your household. And their body will be preserved until you're ready to complete their afterlife care.

I'd also like to share how we handle some of our animals' afterlife care at Animal Wonders because we have some different options. Since we have some unusual species, and we love to teach and share about the wonders of our world, some of our animals will continue to teach even after their death. We donate some of our deceased animals to museums, like Curly Bird the white-cheeked turaco, who went to the bird collection at the Field Museum. And (?~3:11), the glass lizard, who went to the Philip L. Wright Zoological Museum.

We'll also use some of the animals' skeletons, which we call biological artifacts, to use as tools in our own presentations. Like this skull from Tango the Patagonian cavy, which is great to show off the incredible teeth of these amazing rodents.

So asking about end of life and afterlife care is a great question and an okay thing to talk about because there are a lot of options to think about, and a lot of choices to be made.

Thank you to all of those who asked this question and a big thank you to all our Patreon patrons for supporting our efforts to educate about animals in the natural world. If you'd like to continue learning about animals and go on and adventure with us every week, subscribe to our YouTube channel, "Animal Wonders Montana," and we'll see ya next week.