Legalese — Even the Rainbow Bridge is Regulated

Pet grave: Photo credit Morguefile
Pet grave: Photo credit Morguefile

When we are driving down the road in this part of the world, we often see animals on the side of the road that have been hit by a car. Like so many parts of our lives that we don’t give much thought to, there is an entire chapter of the Georgia Code entitled “Dead Animal Disposal Act.” In fact, there are two separate sections which define what a ‘dead animal’ is, in case we might be confused by that fact.

And actually, it isn’t that simple, as most things legal are not, which is what makes legalese such a ridiculously complicated and precise language. Obviously a deer or armadillo on the side of the road is a ‘dead animal.’ As are our beloved pets when they reach then end of their lives. But what about a chicken leg in a bucket of KFC? A rabbit’s foot on a keychain? A taxidermied rainbow trout? Never fear, the legislature, no doubt taking hours of debate and argument, has defined it thusly: As used in this chapter, the term “dead animals” means the carcasses, parts of carcasses, fetuses, embryos, effluent, or blood of livestock, including, without limitation, cattle, swine, sheep, goats, poultry, ratites, equine, and alternative livestock; pet animals associated with pet dealers, kennels, animal shelters, or bird dealers licensed by the Georgia Department of Agriculture; animals processed by commercial facilities which process animals for human consumption; and animals associated with wildlife exhibitions.

So, now that we know whether or not we have a dead animal on our hands, what do we do now?

If it is in the right of way of a highway maintained “either totally or in part from state funds” it is the Department of Transportation’s problem. You cannot dispose of a dead animal in “wells, open pits, or surface waters of any kind on private or public land.” Approved methods of disposal are “burning, incineration, burial, rendering, or any method using appropriate disposal technology which has been approved by the Commissioner of Agriculture.” You must complete one of these methods within 24 hours after death or discovery. If you choose burial, the animal “must be buried at least three feet below the ground level, and not less than three feet of earth over the carcass, and must not contaminate ground water or surface water.”

If you want to transport a dead animal into the State of Georgia, there are a lot of rules for that, too. “Dead animals or parts thereof, raw or unrendered, except green salted hides, shall not be allowed to enter the State of Georgia except by written permit issued by the Georgia Department of Agriculture; provided, however, that licensed research institutes, accredited colleges or state colleges and universities, and departments of municipal governments may transport and receive dead animals for research or investigational purposes only.”

Violation of any of these provisions is a misdemeanor. There is no provision as to whether or not buzzards or other scavenger animals can be prosecuted for violation.

The point is that there isn’t anything that isn’t regulated within an inch of its life. That said, if you decide to give your goldfish a non-legally approved burial at sea, I won’t rat you out.

This article was written by a lawyer, but should not be considered legal advice in any way, shape, or form. It is written for general (and generally vague) informational purposes only. In order to properly evaluate your case, a lawyer must examine all the facts and circumstances that are particular and personal to your situation. I have not done that here.

About Lori Duff 352 Articles
Lori is the author of the bestselling collection of humor essays, "Mismatched Shoes and Upside Down Pizza" currently available exclusively on Amazon. In order to finance her writing habit, she is a practicing lawyer with Jones & Duff, LLC. She is married to Mike Duff, who is a retired DeKalb County Public Safety Officer, and has two amazing children who make cameo embarrassing appearances in her blog posts and who attend Walton County Public Schools. Her legal column, "Legalese", is meant to de-mystify and humanize the Court system. When asked about her writing, Lori says, "Life is too short not to laugh at every available opportunity. My goal is to make myself laugh -- and hopefully you will laugh along with me."

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