Dear Funeral Director:
I’ve got what may be an unusual question. We have the remains of our beloved dogs which we considered family. When my wife and I die, our wishes are to be buried alongside each other AND the remains of our dogs. Can our wishes be honored and is something like this legal? We own two graves in a local cemetery and are curious about what we can do.
Mark C., Darien, CT
Great question, it’s not as unusual as you may think. The practice of people being buried with animals is not a new concept; it’s been a large part of Egyptian burial rituals for centuries. Egyptians believed that animals shared the same after life as humans, and it was very common to be buried with their mummified cats, monkeys and birds. In England, Anglo-Saxon nobility and warriors were buried with their horses. In New Mexico, thousands of prehistoric dogs have been found in graves with their masters as it was believed that dogs were the divine escorts into the next world. As Christianity became more prominent however, burial with pets was frowned upon by the church as only humans were believed to have souls.
In today’s world, more people are expressing the desire to have the remains of family pets to accompany them to the grave and, as a result, government and cemeteries now have to decide where they stand on the issue.
The Hartsdale Pet Cemetery and Crematory in Hartsdale, NY is the oldest of its kind in the United States. Families have had their ashes interred into the graves of their pets there since the 1920s, but lawmakers put a stop to it in 2011 when one woman wanted her uncle’s full body buried beside his wife and three dogs. Through her successful lobbying efforts in 2013 the woman was able to change NY state law to allow pet and human burials in pet cemeteries. Since that time more US states have begun looking at similar legislation.
Though many US states do allow pets to be buried in family plots, sharing a single grave with a pet in a human cemetery is not allowed. However, this doesn’t mean that many a pet’s urn hasn’t found its way into the casket of their deceased human family member. Despite the fact that more than 60% of American households live with pets, there are still many people who don’t like the idea of lying next to someone’s pet for eternity.
Gerald R. Bosak, LFD