Making Choices After Your Pet Dies
Just as there are local ordinances that dictate how a person’s death is handled, there are laws regarding how to proceed after a pet dies.
Whether you plan a funeral or memorial, one immediate practical issue to address is transporting your pet’s body from the home or veterinary hospital to the final resting place. Your veterinarian is a valuable resource for information on laws and costs pertaining to the options in your area.
Burial of a Pet
Many people prefer to bury their pet on their property although zoning restrictions limit this practice in some areas. Burying your pet at home makes it easy to visit your pet’s grave and is inexpensive. However, you should consider how you may feel if you change your address or if future alterations to your property might affect your pet’s gravesite.
The growing “status” of family pets causes some pet owners to request a shared gravesite with their pets. While most current laws prohibit cemeteries from allowing this, growing recognition of pet’s roles in the family are inviting changes to these policies.
Performing a burial ritual can be comforting to pet owners. Pet cemeteries are gaining popularity as a viable option for pets and offer a permanent location for a pet’s resting place. Pet cemeteries usually offer full burial and cremations services. You may also purchase a plot, casket and grave marker, just as you would for a “two-legged” loved one. The pet cemetery may also help transport you pet’s body from the place of its passing and offer in-home veterinary services if you’ve decided to euthanize your pet. Full-service pet cemeteries also provide catering services for memorials for an additional fee. Sometimes, a humane society or veterinary clinic operates a pet cemetery.
When considering a pet cemetery, do a little research because the rising popularity of this service has opened the door for some less than ethical practices. Ensure the pet cemetery is on “dedicated land.” This designates that the land is deeded for permanent use as a pet cemetery regardless of who owns the land.
Some pet cemeteries and humane shelters offer communal burials, which mean that multiple animals are buried in a common location.
With cremation becoming a first choice for people in the U.S., it’s no surprise it has also become a popular choice for pets. For this service, you contact a pet cremation facility. An individual cremation assures that your pet’s ashes are not mixed with other animals and the remains can be returned to you or disposed of according to your wishes. It’s important to remember that since most of the body is made of water, the volume of ashes you receive is relatively small. Like a communal burial, a group cremation processes multiple pets. Given the mix of remains, this service does not normally offer to return ashes to pet owners. The pet crematorium should allow you to witness the cremation without additional fees.
Veterinarian Disposal of Pet Remains
Your veterinarian should be equipped to dispose of your pet’s remains for you. While this is a convenient option, the practice can make saying good-bye abrupt, which can inhibit healing from grief.
Donating Your Pet’s Body to Science
Pet owners who face losing a pet, can also donate the animal’s body to a veterinary school when the pet passes. Various universities around the nation have established programs similar to the programs people use. Students benefit from research performed on deceased pets by learning anatomy and becoming familiar with working with an actual animal. Then, the pet is cremated. Contact the school nearest you for the details on how you can donate your pet's body.
You should share your plan with your vet and, if euthanizing your pet, bring the paperwork when you bring your pet. Also contact the school so that they can make arrangements to receive the animal. Your veterinarian should include your pet’s charts with the body to provide students with as much information as possible. This is a donation that not only helps the students, but contributes to a healthier future for other pets as well.
Unique Option — Aerial Scattering of Pet's Ashes
A grand farewell to a pet might also include scattering the pet’s ashes from an airplane. This practice is subject to local legal guidelines, but offers a viable option as a remembrance especially when a pet loved the outdoors. The service is performed by companies that also normally scatter the ashes of people. The provider may mail you a certificate commemorating the scattering with the details of time, date and exact location.