With more than a few horse jokes thrown in, the House Natural Resources & Environment Committee moved a bill Friday that would allow Utahns to bury dead horses, pigs and cows on private property.
House Bill 261, put forth by Rep. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi, was greeted with some skepticism by committee members, some of whom seemed perplexed that such a law was necessary. Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, said he's ventured out on dozens on horse-riding expeditions and has never crossed paths with a horse owner, or even a veterinarian, who was concerned about not being able to dispose of a dead animal.
“Nobody ever has talked about the issue of having to bury a horse or dispose of a horse,” Stephenson said. “It's just not talked about.”
The bill underwent several amendments before it was passed. Its largest hurdle appeared to be an earmark for $135,000 to conduct a study on the scope of dead animal issues. The study would have analyzed how many horse owners find it difficult to dispose of animals; how many animals on average must be buried; the costs of establishing a facility to process dead horses; and the impacts animal burials have on water quality. This sum, and any study it would have funded, was scrapped.
Anderegg said he was spurred to seek the law because he has neighbors in Utah County who have had difficulty burying their horses.
Although the first draft of the bill would have restricted such burials to two animals per year on a 1-acre parcel, these restrictions were removed. As the law reads now, there doesn't appear to be any restrictions on how big the plot of land must be for the burial site, or how frequent burials can occur. However, Anderegg said, the state's Division of Solid & Hazardous Waste would regulate the details.
The law would trump any regulations cities and counties have on the books that aim to restrict animal burials, Anderegg said. In Utah and Salt Lake counties, he said laws prohibiting burials were put in place to encourage people to take their deceased animals to a nearby dog-food plant. But, he said, this plant moved to another county, necessitating rules to once again allow people in these counties to perform the burials.
Matt Sullivan, an environmental scientist with the state's Division of Solid & Hazardous Waste, said some landfills in Utah are permitted to take dead animals. Some stipulations apply. He says animals are buried in their own pit and must be covered at the end of each day.
Anderegg wrote the law to say that a landowner must bury or dispose of a dead animal in a “reasonable” amount of time. But due to the subjectivity of this phrase, Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, suggested it be changed to say the animal must be taken care of in a reasonable period of time after the owner discovers the dead animal. This change, Noel said, was for ranchers and large landowners who might not quickly discover that an animal had died.
Though no cities or counties formally supported the bill, Anderegg said he's heard privately from several jurisdictions that the law would be useful. “I have heard from many people, as well as from the state Department of Ag about how this bill will fulfill a real need."
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