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Saying goodbye to a family pet is never easy. On top of immense grief, owners face difficult decisions about what to do with their pet’s remains. Every pet-owner relationship is unique, and every pet owner has her own desires when it comes to memorializing a beloved pet.
Ed Martin, president and director of Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Hartsdale, N.Y., understands more than most how important it is to offer compassion, kindness and respect to pet owners dealing with the death of a pet. “The loss of a pet can be just as emotional and distressing as the loss of a human family member,” Martin says. “Owners just want to say farewell in the way that is most appropriate for them.”
That’s where aftercare service providers come in.
Pet aftercare pertains to the physical handling of a pet’s remains after death. An important part of aftercare services is allowing pet owners to say goodbye in a loving and respectful way that commemorates their time spent together and honors cherished memories. That’s why some aftercare service providers coordinate memorial services and provide grief support as part of their offerings.
Ultimately, says Martin, “aftercare celebrates the relationship owners have had with their pets and provides care and support for families during this difficult time.”
There are well over 600 pet aftercare facilities in the United States today — including cemeteries, crematories and funeral homes — up from just a handful 10 years ago. The options for memorializing a pet who has passed fall into two major categories: cremation and burial. The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement provides a comprehensive geographic list of pet cemeteries and crematories by state.
There are three types of cremation: communal, individual and private.
With both individual and private cremation, the pet’s ashes are returned to the owner in an urn or another container, depending on the owner’s preference. Specialty urns can be reflective of the owner’s style, imprinted with the pet’s paw print or personalized and made to look like the pet.
Cremation services are often handled directly through veterinarians, who contract with local crematories. The cremation service picks up the pet from the veterinary hospital, performs the cremation and returns the remains of individually cremated pets to the hospital.
Cremation is by far the most common method of handling a pet’s remains. Costs depend on the size of the pet and which type of cremation the owner chooses. Cremation costs usually range from about $200 to $400.
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