Tag Archives: burial

Planning a Pet’s Funeral

Many people complain about funeral costs when they are deciding what to do about dear deceased granddad or mom; they think costs are too high and ask for cheaper options. But when it comes to a beloved pet, no one complains about what it costs to bury or cremate it. Cost is rarely even discussed. Rather the pet owner decides what he or she wants and then just pays for it.

National Pet Memorial Day was celebrated in September. According to the International Association of Pet Cemeteries and Crematories,  it was a day to “increase awareness of the many options available to memorialize pets”. Less than ten years ago, pet aftercare facilities were almost nonexistent. People just didn’t talk about what to do with their deceased pet. Today, there are more than 700 pet aftercare facilities nationwide and the number is growing. According to Tom Flynn, president of Hillerest-Flynn Pet Funeral Home and Crematory in Hermitage, PA, it’s a rapidly growing business. His profits have increased by 25% every year since he began offering pet burials in 2006.

Nobody really knows what demographic is responsible for the industry boom. Some think it’s baby boomers, who turn to a pet after their spouse has died or their children have left home. Others think it’s people in their 20’s and 30’s who have delayed or opted out of becoming parents and have decided to get a pet instead. Still others think it’s older women who never had children. Or the very wealthy. But, in actuality, Ed Martin, Jr. of Hartsdale, NY Pet Cemetery and Crematory, says they “get everybody: men, women, rich, poor, young, old.”

A pet funeral can be expensive, with a bronze grave marker costing almost $1,800 and a velvet-lined casket in excess of $1,100. Did you know that in addition to pet burials and cremations, you can arrange things like pet blessings and candlelight vigils? Some companies offer even more services than you’d find at a human funeral home.

In addition, there are unconventional options as well. Although it sounds very weird, some people opt for freeze-drying their pet’s body which can cost as much as $3,000. And a company in Elk Grove Village, IL called LifeGem, has a process that uses carbonized ashes from cremated remains to create synthetic diamonds. Prices run from $2,490 to $25,000. The process originally was intended for humans but pet owners started requesting the service for their pets so frequently that it’s now 25% of LifeGem’s business.

If you’re looking for unusual ideas, a place to start might be Peternity, an online store like Target, but for pet grieving.

Whatever you decide when planning what to do with your deceased pet, be like everyone else. Don’t think about price. Just decide what you want and pay whatever it costs.

What will happen to the poor little rich dog’s ashes?

When Leona Helmsley died, she left $12 million in her will allocated to the care of her beloved Maltese lapdog, Trouble. In 2008, after some of Helmsley’s heirs protested, a judge reduced Trouble’s inheritance to a mere $2 million, saying that $12 million exceeded the amount necessary to care for the dog, even when providing her with the highest standard of care.

Helmsley also specified in her will that Trouble ‘s remains were to be buried alongside her own in the family mausoleum which is located in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Westchester County, New York. That request has not been honored and Troubles ashes remain “privately retained.”

Regulations prohibit the interring of nonhuman remains at a human cemetery. However, the Helmsley mausoleum itself is considered private property (even though it is located on the cemetery grounds) and its key is retained by the Helmsley family.

Should the family will skirt the law and bury Trouble’s ashes alongside those of Leona Helmsley? What would you do?

You thought you could be buried with your pet…maybe not in New York.

Many people consider their pet a member of the family and, when it dies, they want to remember that pet by burying it in a special place.

Hartsdale Pet Cemetery and Crematory in Hartsdale, New York claims to be the oldest pet cemetery in the United States and, until recently, it allowed people to have their ashes buried next to those of their pet. After all, some people are closer to their dogs or cats than they are to other members of their family so it makes sense that they would want to be near them after death.

However, last February, the New York Division of Cemeteries announced that this was no longer possible and has since blocked Hartsdale from taking in human ashes. The government claimed that Hartsdale has been violating a law requiring that any cemetery providing burial space for humans must be operated as a not-for-profit corporation. By charging a fee and promoting their human interment service, Hartsdale was violating laws governing not-for-profit corporations.

According to a spokesperson for Hartsdale, it is a private, for profit business and, as such, is not under the jurisdiction of the Division of Cemeteries.

Until the law is clarified and a final decision made, people like Taylor York, a law professor, are out of luck. York’s uncle, Thomas Ryan, died in April and had arranged, and prepaid, to join his wife, Bunny and their two dogs, BJ I and BJ II, who are already buried there. Now Ryan’s ashes sit in a wooden box at his sister’s home because the state’s new rule won’t allow him to be buried at Hartsdale.

What do you think? Pet’s ashes are not allowed to be buried in a human cemetery; should people’s ashes be allowed to be buried with their pets in a pet cemetery?

Donate your body to science and someone may profit from your death!

Many people leave directions on how they would like their body to be disposed of.  Before making a final decision, they may consider burial or cremation.  Another option they may think about is the possibility of donating their body to medical science.

There are many medical schools that would love the gift of a body that can be used to help students study human anatomy. And there are non-profit organizations that act as clearing houses for groups of those schools.  For example, in Florida, the Anatomical Board of the State of Florida office in Gainesville, Florida (800-628-2594) handles all of the “donations” of bodies to all the medical schools in that state.  And there is a web site, maintained by  the State of Florida Anatomical Board  http://www.med.ufl.edu/anatbd/usprograms.html,  which has a comprehensive list of medical schools across the country that are interested in receiving cadaevars. 

But beware.  Over the last several years, several for-profit companies have been formed that take a body and sell it, or parts of it, for a large profit….often more than $100,000 – $150,000! 

If you are considering donating your body, think about this.  Do you want someone to make money off of your death – money that will not go to your family but to a faceless corporation.  If the answer is no, check out the organization carefully before you sign any paperwork.

Bio Cremation – a new, green form of cremation

This week the California legislature is voting on a bill that will make bio cremation another legal way to dispose of human remains; it will provide an eco-friendlier alternative to the current choices – burial or cremation.

What makes bio cremation via resomation different? 

The current alternatives – traditional cremation and burial pose threats to the environment.

Cremation uses fossil fuels which are regulated by environmental officials and which have the potential to add to pollution because of their green house gas emissions.  Burial poses another environmental threat, primarily because of the chemicals such as formaldehyde that are used in embalming fluids; formaldehyde is a toxic chemical that eventually leaks into the ground as the body decomposes.

Bio cremation via resomation, on the other hand, does not use anything toxic or harmful to the environment.  According to a representative of Matthews International, exclusive distributor of bio cremation equipment for the United States, this new option uses a process called alkaline hydrolysis.  This process reduces a body to dry bone residue which can be buried in a cemetery or returned to the family in an urn just like the currently available options.  In case you’ve never heard of alkaline hydrolysis, it’s basically the same natural process that occurs in our small intestines to aid digestion of foods after we eat.  But for bio cremation it’s done in a big stainless steel cylinder and uses 95% water in an alkaline solution.

What does bio cremation cost?

In the short run, the cost to the consumer should be no more than $300 – $500 higher than that of traditional cremation, a small premium to pay to better protect our environment.  This premium is necessitated by the high initial investment that will need to be made by crematoriums, etc. to purchase the necessary equipment. 

Where is the process legal?

Although the bio cremation process has been legal in Europe for awhile, it is just gaining approval in the United States.

Florida was the first state to legalize this process, followed closely by Maine and Minnesota.  It is anticipated that the California legislature will approve bio cremation this week.  And approval by legislatures in Colorado, Nebraska, Arizona and Washington State is expected soon.

Adoption will be slower in other states, due in part to the fact that many of their legislatures don’t meet again until 2011.

What do consumers think?

Consumer testing of the concept has been very positive with some people commenting that they are pleased that there is finally a funeral service offering that is relevant to today.