Pet Cemeteries Explained: How They Work & Where to Find One

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Why are pet cemeteries important to people? Because their pets are important to them. And while it can be difficult for some people to express their feelings in general, people are often much less stoic or reserved when it comes to love of their pets.

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In 2019, Americans spent $95.7 billion on their pets, according to the American Pet Products Association. It’s a market that keeps growing and growing. I

n 2018, Americans spent $90.5 billion, and it’s estimated that 2020 pet industry purchases could go up to $99 billion. So it only makes sense that we’d want the best for our pets in both life and death.

What’s a Pet Cemetery? 

A real pet cemetery is nothing like Stephen King’s book or the movie Pet Sematary (yes, it’s spelled wrong on purpose). Real pet cemeteries treat your deceased pet with respect and understanding. They know that you haven’t just lost an animal – you’ve lost a companion, a loved one, and a family member.

“You just don’t see these kind(s) of emotions expressed at human cemeteries,” says Brian Martin, manager of Hartsdale Pet Cemetery. He’s referring to the loving, personal nature of the epitaphs on pet grave markers, according to an article in Atlas Obscura.

Why do we have pet cemeteries?

Humans have special relationships with their pets. Psychologists have studied it and have tried to figure out exactly why people feel the deep feelings they do about their dogs and cats and other pets. Is it because we tend to humanize them? Or is it because they are entirely dependent on us to care for them?

No matter what the reason, pets are an important part of our lives. And we want the best for them in life and after. So, when a pet dies, that doesn’t necessarily mean that a backyard burial may suffice.

For those who rent, don’t stay in one location their whole lives, a pet cemetery gives them a place to honor the life of their pet without worrying that a later owner of the house they used to live in will dig up the garden where Mr. Whiskers the tuxedo cat was buried years before.

Also, in some places, it may be prohibited to bury a pet on your property. Check with local restrictions or the county Board of Health to find out.

America’s first pet cemetery

According to Atlas Obscura, the first pet cemetery in America is located in Hartsdale, N.Y. It was built on the apple orchard of a veterinarian named Samuel Johnson. It all started with one of his clients whose dog died but had no place to bury him.

“Now, over a century since it was founded in 1896, Hartsdale Pet Cemetery has over 80,000 dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, reptiles, monkeys, horses, a lion, and even some humans buried on its five acres,” notes Atlas Obscura. The wrought-iron gate at the cemetery’s entrance states the name as Hartsdale Canine Cemetery, but all types of animals are buried there. 

One of the most interesting things about Hartsdale is that humans can be buried there with their pets. Animals, on the other hand, have not been allowed to be buried in many human cemeteries. Until some cemeteries started allowing pets to be buried alongside their humans, there were people who’d request to have their pet’s cremated remains placed in their casket.

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How Pet Cemeteries Usually Work: A Step by Step Guide 

To go over how pet cemeteries work, it is important to detail and review the circumstances of the end of your pet’s life.

Types of death

Where your pet dies will make a difference as to where you start the process of having your pet buried in a pet cemetery.

Euthanization death

If you take your pet to the veterinarian’s office to be put to be euthanized, the staff will probably offer you the choice of having your pet cremated. If you decide to have this done, they will keep your pet and notify the pet crematory to send someone for a pick up.

If you prefer, you can take your pet with you when you leave. In this case, you’ll be in charge of your pet’s final arrangements. More on this below.

Death at home

If your pet passes away at home, you’ll be responsible for arranging your pet’s interment at the pet cemetery of your choice. This, of course, includes any death that doesn’t occur in a veterinarian’s office.

These circumstances include:

  • Natural death in the home
  • Accidental death inside the home
  • Any death outside the home

When a death like this occurs, you’ll be responsible for the next steps.

To cremate or not to cremate

Talking about the topic of cremation is not easy. Deciding whether or not to be cremated after your own death can be a difficult decision. As people have very strong feelings about their animals, it could be difficult to decide what to do for them as well.

One thing to keep in mind is that there are areas where animals must be cremated prior to burial. “In many municipalities, burying a pet’s non-cremated remains is prohibited,” according to Agape Pet Services. This may only be an issue if you want to bury your pet on your own property.

If you decide on cremation, you’ll need to call a pet crematory. If you can’t locate one on your own, you can call your veterinarian’s office (or any veterinarian office) and they will be able to direct you to your local options.

Selecting a pet cemetery

When looking for the right pet cemetery for your furry, scaled, or feathered loved one, you’ll want to know what options they offer. This way you can choose the one that fits your needs.

  • Do they offer pet cremation?
  • Do they offer memorial services? (Perfect, if you’re planning a pet’s funeral.)
  • Are the grounds on dedicated land specifically for a pet cemetery?
  • Do they offer a selection of grave markers?
  • Are there options for caskets and cremation urns?
  • Will they assist in the transporting of your pet’s body from the location of death (home or veterinarian’s office)?
  • Do they provide veterinary services at home if you have chosen to euthanize your pet?
  • Are humans allowed to be interred in the cemetery alongside their pets? (There are pet cemeteries that allow this.)

When selecting a pet cemetery, you’ll also want to verify that the cemetery is reputable and follows local laws and regulations, according to FuneralWise. They should be able to help you with pet memorial ideas and what to write on a pet’s grave if you need assistance.

How Much Does It Cost to Bury a Pet in a Pet Cemetery?

There are different factors that go into the cost of a pet’s burial costs. They include some of the following: 

  • Whether your pet is cremated or not
  • Your pet’s size (if not cremated)
  • Cost of transportation service (from home or another location, if offered)
  • Cost of burial plot
  • Cost of opening and closing the grave
  • Cost of casket or burial container
  • Cost of grave marker (flat, upright, small, large, marker material, charge per letter for inscription)

The cost of a pet cemetery plot can average around $300 to $500 or more. For a large animal, such as a horse, it could cost $1,000 or more. Costs will vary depending on individual cemeteries. The location of the cemetery can make a difference, too. If you live in a metropolitan area where space is at a premium, space at the cemetery may be as well.

Note: Read over all the rates and services closely. There may be cases where a number of services are included in a package deal. But, many times you will be paying separate fees for each service.

Your pet’s size can make a difference in burial cost, as noted above. The grave for a large animal that has not been cremated can cost a lot more than that of an animal who has been cremated. This can also be said for the casket or container cost.

If you like a specific pet cemetery but think their rates are high on grave markers, you should be able to order one somewhere else. Just make sure the cemetery doesn’t include an extra fee for the setting of a marker purchased elsewhere.

How to Find a Pet Cemetery Near You

You can always search online to find pet cemeteries. But if you need help or want someone to provide a more detailed guide or recommend one, don’t be afraid to ask some of the following places:

  • Check with your veterinarian’s office
  • Ask at the pet crematorium
  • Check with a local funeral home you’ve worked with before
  • Ask a local cemetery for suggestions
  • See if there are any human cemeteries have pet cemeteries adjacent to them

Rest in Peace and in Mind

When you lose a beloved pet, you may experience a feeling of loss like no other. Our pets can be our best friends who have loved us unconditionally their whole lifetime. That’s a special bond that should be honored – for them and for you.

Finding the proper resting place for a beloved family member like a pet can be difficult, but when you’ve selected the place that offers peace of mind – it can make the grieving process a bit easier.


Sources

  1. “Pet Industry Market Size & Ownership Statistics.” American Pet Products Association, www.americanpetproducts.org/press_industrytrends.asp 
  2. “Hartsdale Pet Cemetery: The first pet cemetery in the United States.” Atlas Obscura, www.atlasobscura.com/places/hartsdale-pet-cemetery

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