A Funeral for Your Beloved Pet? Pet Parents Like the Idea

Man holding dog illustrating who might hold a funeral for your petA growing number of people are honoring their deceased, beloved pet with a funeral and graveyard burial. But it's not cheap laying Fluffy to rest.

WalletPop spoke to Coleen Ellis of the Pet Loss Professional Alliance, a group dedicated to establishing and holding standards for pet funeral homes, crematoriums and cemeteries.

Seven years ago she opened the nation's first funeral home exclusively for pets, the Two Hearts Pet Loss Center. There, she holds funeral services for pet parents who often tell her, "I want to make sure I can do one more thing for my pet, because they deserve it." Today, hers is one of several of such facilities in the country, and she has served more than 3,000 clients.What is fueling this industry, she says, is a shift in the way people think about pets and loss and grieving. No longer does it seem completely wacky for adults to hold a funeral for a pet. When the grief of losing a pet is strong, the ceremony honoring the fallen friend can be comforting to the owner.

A funeral at Two Hearts can be held for as little as $300, but, just like human funerals, there are many options that could raise the price.

Pet parents also commonly seek a place to bury their pet with dignity, and pet cemeteries are common in the U.S. But what if an owner wants to be buried alongside his beloved pet?

Many people would look askance at having a loved human friend or relative buried next to someone's horse, so human cemeteries are not the answer. Legal Counsel Scott Gilligan of the National Funeral Directors Association told WalletPop "I have not heard of any state laws that prevent the burial of pets alongside humans. However, I am certain that many cemeteries would have rules to that effect."

In fact, according to Bob Fells, spokesman for the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association, many graveyards carry deed restrictions allowing only humans to be buried there. This means that the practice of tucking Fluffy's cremains in the casket of his human owner may violate the terms of the graveyard.

The market is beginning to respond to the demands of the pet parents, however. For example, the Hillcrest-Flynn Pet Memorial Center in Pennsylvania now has two sections; one for pets, and one for humans and pets together. According to Fells, other cemeteries are opening similar shared sections.

Ellis told WalletPop that the cost to bury a pet in a pet cemetery could be as little as $200 or as much as $2,000 for a full-blown burial, including a casket and vault. A spot survey of cemeteries across the country showed that this would be a bargain, as others cost more in the $400 range for pets under 20 pounds. And don't forget the cost of cremation, if that route is chosen, which will run $230 or more.

In addition, some pet cemeteries require a yearly maintenance fee, usually around $30.

While a pet cemetery may also accept human remains, Ellis points out that it is important to make sure that the facility is prepared to manage the site in perpetuity, which takes a financial investment.

Ellis pointed out that the pet industry was a $47 billion business in 2010, showing that people are willing to spend, even during a recession, on care for their pets. Is it any wonder that pet funerals have found their niche?

The key is the bond between owner and pet, often stronger than that between owners and relatives. Ellis wears a small urn on a necklace every day that contains hairs from all of the pets she has ever owned. How many people have you loved in your lifetime enough to do the same?
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