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How to Spend Forever with Your Pet

How to Spend Forever with Your Pet

I want to be buried with my cats. One problem: finding a cemetery that will do it. That’s because of a second problem: some people hate the idea of being buried next to a non-human animal as much as people like me love it.

Gary Bloze, owner of Illinois Pet Cemeteries, says that when one local cemetery started burying the bodies of humans and their non-human companions together, they got hit with lawsuits by the families of people already buried there who might get a pet as a new neighbor. The cemetery had to change its ways, which it did by cordoning off a section of the cemetery for companion animals.

Bloze’s own cemetery is representative of an alternative: pet cemeteries. Some of them accept human remains for burial with their pets, so the only human remains buried there are those of people who wanted to be next to animals. Illinois Pet Cemetery, founded by Bloze’s grandfather in 1926, is the oldest pet cemetery in Illinois, but now it is far from the only one.

More than half a million pet cemeteries in the United States accept human remains, and more than two million people have taken advantage of that. But even in these facilities the commingling of species is kept on the down low. “Most of the inscriptions on the tiny headstones of people and pets buried in the pet cemetery do not even mention the names of the humans,” according to CremationUrn.com. Bloze is generous in this regard, allowing humans’ initials to appear on pets’ headstones.

What if you want to be buried with family already interred at a non-pet cemetery and with your companion animals? It’s doable, but you will have to be sneaky.

Undertakers, who are usually independent of cemeteries, have the job of sealing the coffin. When that closed box arrives at the cemetery, it is placed in a concrete vault and then in the ground without anyone looking inside. Persuade the undertaker to put your pets’ remains in the coffin with you, and the cemetery — and the families of people already buried at the cemetery — will never know. Coleen Ellis, co-chair of the Pet Loss Professionals Alliance, says this practice is common. According to Ellis, funeral directors say that “not a day goes by when I don’t put an urn of an animal into the casket of a human being secretly for a family.”

Funeral director and lawyer Poul Lemasters told philly.com that in most states burying pets in human cemeteries is illegal, so it isn’t just the cemetery that has to be kept in the dark. But growing demand for co-species burials is spurring legislators to change the laws.

A bill pending in Virginia would do just that, with some restrictions. The bill’s sponsor, Republican delegate Israel O’Quinn, says that the bill ensures that “no animals would be buried next to anyone who does not want them.” The Washington Post reports that “his bill makes clear that any human-pet burials would be in separate but adjacent plots and that they must be segregated from traditional gravesites.”

The bill hasn’t passed yet. It may meet the same fate as a similar, rejected proposal in Washington state to allow animals to be buried in human cemeteries. In Florida, however, it is legal to bury humans and non-humans together.

If you want to keep everything above-board and you live in a state where pets’ remains aren’t accepted in human cemeteries, the easiest (and cheapest) choice is to be cremated and not have the ashes buried in a cemetery. State laws tend to allow people’s cremated remains to be buried or scattered pretty much anywhere.

One tip about cremating a pet: make sure you are getting a private or individual cremation. If you don’t specify that, you may wind up with other pets’ ashes. In mass cremations, multiple animals are cremated together, the ashes are divvied up, and you receive cremains that may contain a bit of several companion animals. If you’re going to the trouble of being buried together, you should be buried with the right precious friend.

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Photo credit: Drimafilm

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84 comments

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10:03PM PDT on May 4, 2014

I plan to be buried w/ the remains of my dogs, if they pass b-4 me.

8:12PM PST on Feb 17, 2014

wow. Not sure what happened on that - sorry.

8:11PM PST on Feb 17, 2014

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I have already checked into this in Cal and the mortuary I spoke to said that it was not a problem and is done quite often. My plans are to be put in a coffin along with my dogs urns. This is the only way I can be sure my kids are taken care of for long term. I do not want someone thinking their urns are trash and disposing of them as garbage. I want to be buried with them so I can always be with them and they will be safe. My mother argues with me and says "they will always be with you, you don't need to be buried with them". But I don't agree. I also think she has a problem of me wanting to be buried as opposed to cremation.





1:46AM PST on Feb 17, 2014

It's not the dead people who care about being buried next to a companion animal, it's the hoity toity relatives who want everything "just so"

1:41AM PST on Feb 17, 2014

Huh, posted by accident too soon.

The bones of birds are fragile, an adaptation to make them light enough for flight, so I guess they disintegrated long ago, and if exhumation was an option, you would find nothing....

As for their souls, there are stories I can tell. I repeated them to a friend who recently had the misfortune to lose her beloved horse at the age of only 10, and she audibly gasped... That horse is buried at home, on a farm, a considerable undertaking for a Shire of almost 19 hands, weighing over a ton.

1:36AM PST on Feb 17, 2014

I was going on to the really important thing...

The reuniting of our souls is far more important that the location of our ashes. I've painted rainbow horses for people who keep the ashes of their beloved horses in urns at home, but I couldn't take it that far! As I said before, it's enough for me that my horse's body was treated with respect at the time. What matters is the image in my mind, and the knowledge, that although most of my photos of her were lost, the best image is in my mind, and that I am acquiring the skill to paint the most difficult equine challenge of all - her portrait!

I've painted my beloved parrot several times. The best of these hangs in the place of honour. When I moved into my forever home, I hung his portrait above the fireplace, and though my other paintings move around, because the more I paint, the better I get, that one stays put for the rest of my life! I think of that far more than I think of his body being buried in the garden of a big house in Sussex, where I no longer go. The bones of b

1:30AM PST on Feb 17, 2014

So where's my last comment about my mother and the story of the rainbow bridge gone to?

1:12AM PST on Feb 17, 2014

When my beloved horse died, I was taken to hospital because she actually dropped dead from a brain haemorrhage while I was riding her. Before I was taken into the ambulance I remember calling out: 'She's got to be buried or cremated!' I was satisfied that she was cremated, though I don't know where her ashes went. The really important thing is that she wasn't cut up for meat. That would have really upset me.

I couldn't bear to replace her so turned my love to birds. This was years ago - they were eventually buried in the garden of whatever house I was living in at the time. The houses changed hands - I just hope that new planting didn't disturb them.

In every case the important thing to me is that they were respectfully disposed of at the time. I don't really think about afterwards.

My own ashes will be scattered under a line of 200 year of beech trees that grace the most beautiful of the hills I love, so I will never leave my beloved hills. I can't imagine being able to safeguard ashes of beloved pets for all these years so they can be there too.

8:25AM PST on Feb 9, 2014

I plan to be cremated and my deceased cat, who is already cremated and with me, will be cremated together...After a blessed 23 year relationship (longer than anyone else, including my parents) I want him with me...but nobody else...:)

9:03PM PST on Feb 8, 2014

ty

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Lindsay Spangler Lindsay Spangler is a Web Editor and Producer for Care2 Causes. A recent UCLA graduate, she lives in... more
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