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Sudden Death

created at: 2010/09/23

Nothing can prepare us for a sudden death of our pet. In this instance, it is what you do in the immediate hours and days following the death that will best support you. Attending to the practicalities and realities of the care of the body of your pet requires some decisions. Similarly, if you are the person that finds a dead or dying animal, knowing how to respond can be of immense value for yourselves and for the owner of the pet. If your pet has died in or around your home you are free to bury them or to call your vet and make whatever arrangements best suit your circumstances.

If your pet dies then your local council must be notified within 28 days. You can do so in writing or by phone. Some frequently asked questions and situations people find themselves in. Each council across Australia will have its own systems. This information is based on information collected from councils across the country and will not apply to all councils in all cases.

1. What if you find a dead or dying pet that is not yours, in your local area?

If you are unable to take the pet to the vet yourself, then contact the council who will collect it an take it to the nearest vet. If the animal is dead then the animal welfare officers will pick it up. Most officers carry a scanner so animals can be identified by microchip and the owners contacted.

2. Does the driver of a vehicle who hits a dog or cat have any responsibilities to inform council and/or the owner?
Yes. The Road Safety Act 1986 requires the driver to stop and render assistance and then to notify the owner of the animal or the Police in the case that the owner is not able to be identified. If the Police are not present at the time of the incident, the driver is required to provide full particulars of the incident to the nearest Police Station.

3. If an injured animal is dropped off to council by a member of the public- who is responsible for seeking medical care and covering the cost?

In most instances the council will cover the cost. Sometimes they have a relationship with a local vet or lost dogs home that takes care of the care for them.

4. If a member of the public calls to report they have found the body of an animal, with no tag, will council pick it up and try to locate the owner?
Yes, The Animal Management Officer ( or equivalent officer in your council) will collect the
animal, scan it for a registration tag or microchip to identify the owner. If the pet is not micro-chipped, their body will be kept for a period of time to give the owner an opportunity to come forward to collect it. Some councils hand on the bodies of deceased animals to local vets or lost dogs homes.

5. What if my pet as died and I don’t know for a couple of days?
The body of your pet is kept in a dedicated freezer to allow the owner to come forward and collect them. Deceased animals are usually kept for 7 days.

6. Can they transport the body of my pet back home for burial?
Yes. Often owners come forward or are notified by Council and then come and collect their pet for burial at home. Some councils only allow this if you claim them within 24 hours. Often owners collect a collar or something significant even if they do not collect the body. There is sometimes a fee for this as some councils or lost dogs homes they offer counselling and book out a room to speak to family members.

7. Who is the person in your council that callers are best to ask for should they be faced with any of these situations?

Councils have different job titles for the people that oversee the management and registration of our pets. They are called Animal Management unit or sometimes the Department of Health and local laws, or in some councils Customer Service will direct you to the appropriate people as many of the animal management officers or rangers are out on the road.

8. To see the body or not?
The situation in which your pet has died will determine just how you proceed in the care and burial or cremation of their body. The ages of your children and the state of your pets body will be the main determiners in whether you involve them in the hands on burial or let them see the body.