What Happens If An Animal Gets Stuck In A Septic Tank?

They say curiosity killed the cat. And if that cat was curious enough to find its way into a septic tank, then it just might die there. Septic tanks are designed to keep animals - and people - out, but it's easy for one little animal to slip past your defenses and get stuck inside.

That's bad news for the animal, and frustrating for you. It can be a long and difficult process to get an animal out of a septic tank, but that's no reason to just give up hope. If your pet manages to get into one, trying to rescue it is only humane. And if any other creature - like a squirrel or opossum - has somehow managed to find its way inside, you should help them back outside.

Nobody wants to have to deal with this sort of thing, but before you can get started on any rescue attempt, there are a few things you need to know about what happens when an animal gets stuck in a septic tank.

First off, you need to find out if the animal is still alive. Usually, they aren't - septic tanks are not designed for habitation - but just in case, you must know what you're up against. Sometimes an animal will perish inside a septic tank, and then their corpse creates all sorts of problems. The decomposition process releases gasses, and the rotting flesh will build up inside the tank. The body itself might block the drainage holes, or potentially break through into another part of your plumbing system. So you need to find out if they're dead before you do anything else.

You'll also want to be aware that most animals trapped in septic tanks are covered in their waste. If the animal is alive, it may already be under stress from dehydration and exhaustion. So your priority must be to remove as much of this waste as possible and thoroughly rinse the animal off before you do anything else.

The next thing you need to do is figure out how to go about pulling the animal safely out of the tank. If it's a small creature, like a cat or ferret, you can very carefully bring it to the surface using some long tongs. Just be sure you don't drop them! If the animal is too big for that, though - like a raccoon or deer - then you'll need to set up something more robust.

You can make a harness out of some strong rope, for example. Tie one end to heavyweight and lower that into the septic tank. Then attach the other end of the rope to a long plank or stiff board, and swing it back and forth underneath the animal's rear legs. With luck, this will be just high enough for the creature to grab onto it with their front legs, so you can pull them out.

If the animal is dead, then you may want to retrieve its body for burial or disposal. If the animal got in through a small hole, you should be able to patch it up. But if they managed to break through the concrete septic tank lid, you should have a professional come to replace it.

Whatever you do, don't attempt a rescue yourself if there is a chance the animal may still be alive. You could severely injure or kill them if you try and fail. And whatever happens, never - ever - pull them out by their tail! This can seriously damage their spinal cord, and result in paralysis or death.

If you need help with a rescue operation because an animal got stuck in a septic tank, you might want to contact:

- A veterinarian: If it's a pet, they should be able to recommend someone who can help. If it's a wild animal, they may be able to provide the knowledge needed to help rescue it.

- A local wildlife agency: They might even do that for free, if you're in the right circumstances, and have permission from the septic tank owner.

- Septic service companies: Not all septic tank service providers will do this, but there may be someone in your area who can help.

- Emergency rescue and paramedical services: These people not only deal with stuck animals regularly but they're often required to bring up dead ones too. They also provide emergency medical assistance to any living creatures you might have pulled out of the septic tank.

- A bricklayer: They may be able to fix the damaged concrete septic tank lid if it's an animal that broke through and not a human.

- A plumber: They will know how to replace a damaged or missing part of your plumbing system, and who you can call for new parts.

We hope that everything works out well for your animal, and your septic tank too!