Cats, dogs, and even guinea pigs, goldfish, bats, and capybaras can be loving and loyal family members during their lives. So why must owners and their pets be separated in death?
It turns out that they don’t have to be—depending on where they live. New York has become the latest among a handful of states that allow humans and their finned, tentacled, winged, or four-legged companions to be buried together in official cemeteries. And there appears to be a movement afoot (or is it aclaw?) to pressure other states to get on the bandwagon.
Earlier this week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law allowing about 1,900 not-for-profit cemeteries regulated by the state the right to accept the ashes of pets to be interred along with their human owners. The cemetery just must consent to it first.
“We took care of them in life, and we want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to take care of them in death,” says Coleen Ellis, co-chair of the Pet Loss Professionals Alliance, an association of pet-friendly cemeteries, funeral homes, and crematoriums. “Having them near us makes us feel like we did that.”
About two-thirds of U.S. households own a pet, according to the American Pet Products Association.
The Empire State isn’t the only one to allow people to take their animals with them into their final real estate resting place. But the specifics vary widely, and weirdly, state to state.
Virginia permits people and their pets to be buried beside each other in separate caskets. They can also be interred together in Florida if the animal died before its owner and its ashes are kept separate.
In New Jersey, humans unwilling to part with their creatures must be buried in pet cemeteries to be with them forever. Pennsylvania cemeteries are permitted to have separate sections for people and pets. And human cemeteries in Oregon can choose whether or not to accept cremated pet ashes.
But laying a pet to rest in a cemetery isn’t just emotional. It can also be quite costly.
Owners can expect to shell out anywhere from $550 to more than $4,000for a casket and grave in a pet cemetery, according to Angie’s List. That doesn’t include grave maintenance, which can run an additional $20 or more a month and upward of $500 for a lifetime of care. Costs for animals interred with their humans will vary widely as well.
Everything from the size of the beast (a spotted genet will be cheaper to bury than a rottweiler, of course) to the area where it’s buried and how elaborate its eternal resting place will be are factored into the final price tag.
So why not bury Humbert the hamster in the backyard? For starters, those who live in apartments, condos, and co-ops often don’t have the outdoor burial space. And many people would prefer a permanent resting place for their furry and reptilian companions that they can visit even after they move to a new home.
“We’re doing so many things to humanize our pets while they’re alive, such as your doggy spas, doggy hotels,” Ellis says. “[So] it’s only natural that when they die, we would want the same thing for them as we would want for any of our human loved ones.”