June 15, 1992
Commissioner of Agriculture
Seventh Floor, 500 Mero Street
Frankfort, Kentucky 40601
Dear Mr. Logsdon:
You have asked whether certain parties, including the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, may experiment with the disposal of poultry carcasses by composting them.
The disposal of animal carcasses is regulated by KRS 257.160(1), which states:
All carcasses of domestic animals which have died or which have been destroyed on account of any disease, except those destroyed on account of tuberculosis and slaughtered under the supervision of the state veterinarian or other representative of the board [of agriculture], shall be disposed of by:
(a) Complete cremation of the entire carcass and all of its parts and products;
(b) Boiling the carcass and all of its parts and products in water or heating it with steam at a temperature above boiling, continuously for two (2) hours or more; or
(c) Burying the carcass and all of its parts and products in the earth at a point which is never covered with the overflow of ponds or streams and which is not less than one hundred (100) feet distant from any watercourse, well, spring, public highway, residence or stable. The carcass shall be placed in an opening in the earth at least four (4) feet deep, the abdominal and thoracic cavities opened wide their entire length with a sharp instrument, and the entire carcass covered with at least two (2) inches of quicklime and at least three (3) feet of earth.
By the plain terms of the statute none of the three options for disposal of animal carcasses would include composting. Animal carcasses must be cremated, or boiled, or buried under three feet of earth. Any other method of disposal would be in violation of the statute.
However, your question implicates a peculiar situation that exists with regard to the status of birds as animals. In a letter dated March 16, 1990, the Attorney General advised state senator Kelsey Friend that the Kentucky statutes apparently say that a bird is not an animal. Here is how that conclusion was reached:
In 1980 the General Assembly amended the general definitional statute, KRS 446.010, as follows:
Animal includes every warmblooded living creature except a human being.
Animal includes every warmblooded living creature except birds and human beings.
Although the amendment was touted as a means to allow farmers to destroy blackbirds, Governor John Y. Brown perceived that the amendment would also apparently authorize cockfighting. The Governor vetoed the bill, but the veto message reached the clerk of the senate after the veto deadline had passed. Thus, although current compilations of our statutes assume that the veto was valid and therefore omit the 1980 amendment, the Attorney General concluded that the amendment is, indeed, in effect, or at least it should be deemed to be in effect until a court rules otherwise.
And so, in Kentucky, a chicken is not an animal.
Since KRS 257.160 deals with the disposal of carcasses of animals, it does not apply to the disposal of carcasses of chickens. Therefore we conclude that the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture may dispose of chicken carcasses without running afoul of the statute.
Ross T. Carter
Assistant Attorney General