View Full Version : Cremating a smallish horse...

02-12-2015, 08:42 PM
I'm thinking of on-site cremation equipment belonging to a country veterinarian (modern-day, US).

First off, would a country vet typically have cremation equipment? (I'm guessing they might need it to dispose of rabies-infected carcasses and whatnot if there's no crematorium services within a reasonable driving distance).

Also, what's the equipment called, what kind of fuel does it use, and would a horse fit inside? If so, how long would it take to cremate said horse?

What's the likelihood that someone of average intelligence could figure out how to use the equipment correctly (on the first attempt) if they have all the neccessary componants in good working order but no prior experience, no instructions, and nobody to show them proper usage?

02-12-2015, 08:55 PM
I actually worked for a pet cremation service that handled horses.

It's called a retort. I've only heard of using natural gas (or possibly propane, but that would be much less cost effective).

The place I worked for had 2. One of them could handle one very large dog (Great Dane) or several smaller dogs/cats. Figure it was about 3 feet across and maybe 5 feet deep in teh burn chamber. Add a couple of feet to the side and rear, and the whole unit was about 6 feet tall, not counting the exhaust stack.

The horse retort was much larger, of course. Probably 25 feet long, and actually a 7-footish diameter tube. We would winch them off the trailer using a winch that passed through the far end of the burn chamber. The door was very heavy, but latched easily. There was no safety interlock on the big retort, but there was on the small one. In fact, the small one had an automated sliding door. The horse unit had a big hinged door.

From a "follow the rules" standpoint, the winch tube had to be sealed, the start time had to be noted on the temp graph (and new paper added to it), and the door had to be closed prior to hitting the start button. From a practical standpoint, there was a blower system that was designed to purge any natural gas from the burn chamber, so that ran for a minute or so prior to the electronic ignition.

The entire cycle for a horse, from close-the-door to being able to open the door, took about ten hours. Because of our location and the noise from the blower system, we were limited as to when we could start a cremation.

The hard part for your character would probably be actually getting the horse into the chamber, and figuring out how to run the winch, etc.

Let me know if you have more questions.

ETA: I really doubt a vet is going to have a retort of any size. They usually contract out the service. The company I worked for was in Columbus, Ohio, and I made horse pickups into Kentucky and West Virginia. I made vet pickups all over the SW part of the state, from Dayton to Findlay.

02-12-2015, 09:13 PM
A vet is super unlikely to have this. They will need to call a cremation service or renderer, possibly from a neighboring county as they are not available everywhere. Even a small horse may easily cost $1000 to process.

02-12-2015, 10:37 PM
Awesome, that's just what I needed to know. Thanks so much!

02-13-2015, 11:54 AM
I think if there's a disease outbreak that requires mass cremation of carcasses, the county/state health folks would be involved too.

I worked in a large animal diagnostic lab at a vet school for a couple of years before I went to grad school, and we got a lot of dead or dying cows, sheep, pigs, horses (and one time, a dead elephant) delivered to the loading dock behind the necropsy floor.

Most of the time, the animal parts not needed for diagnosis were either sent to rendering (there was a huge cold room, and the truck came a couple times a week), or if there was a health concern, cremated. But this was at a university. Regular vets wouldn't have the money for a horse-sized incinerator, and dead or dying animals would either be sent out to rendering, cremation, or to a diagnostic lab on a truck, as per the owner's wishes and means.

Old Hack
02-13-2015, 01:45 PM
A few years ago, when there was an outbreak of foot and mouth disease here in the UK, affected animals were slaughtered and burned in the fields. It was hugely distressing. The news carried footage of it almost every night. The fires burned for days.

02-13-2015, 04:05 PM
Yes. It was horrible. (And in some areas of the country whole bloodlines of some rare breeds were slaughtered under the compulsory kill rules.)

The rest of the time farm stock would be taken to a slaughterhouse, as distinct from an abattoir (edible animals only in abattoir).
I have seen one slaughterhouse - it can be for dropping off dead animals, or they run a service of collecting (costs more) or they will shoot a diseased animal for you.
The larger carcases are chopped up before going in the furnaces.
Don't know if horses go there, but probably.

Alternative is giving carcases to the local fox hound hunt, to be fed to the hounds.