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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Bill could affect how pets are buried

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Want to spend eternity with Fido or Fluffy?

A new bill under consideration by legislators would amend the current law to allow cemeteries to create designated spaces for burying pets in caskets next to their owners’ caskets.

Currently, cremated remains of an animal may be buried in the casket with the dead, or in some cases, animals can be buried in a pet cemetery adjacent to — but separate from — their owners’ resting place, according to Pete Campbell, manager of Moody Funeral Services in Stuart.

For instance, Noah’s Ark, a pet cemetery, has existed for years adjacent to National Memorial Park Cemetery in Falls Church.

“I look at this (proposal) as a way of helping the families,” Marty Hundley, manager of Patrick Memorial Gardens in Patrick Springs, said of HB 588.

That bill proposes allowing cemetery companies to develop and designate a section for pet/human burials, provided certain guidelines are met, according to Hundley.

“They could be buried side by side, but that section would have to be separated” from sections containing only human remains, he said.

Under the bill, if “a family wants to come in and buy three (burial) spaces so they could put Fluffy in between them, they can,” Hundley said.

Concerns about a pet’s final resting place sometimes arise when people make their final arrangements, Hundley said. He said that some people ask for their pet’s cremated remains to be buried with them.

“When we have had a pet for a number of years and it passes away, it hurts. Pets are family members. People love their pets, and they want to take care of them as much as possible,” even in death, he said.

Currently, there are three burial sections at Patrick Memorial Gardens. All three were designated for human remains when they were developed and the bylaws created, Hundley said.

“We could not go back” and alter those sections to include pets, or pets and their owners, he said. “But we could go to the back of the park and create a new, special section for pets” only, under current law.

If the bill passes, burial parks would have the option of developing a section that would allow pets to be buried alongside their owners, Hundley said.

Then, “they would both be in same section,” Hundley said. “We would still have to put in another roadway or something to separate” that area and meet other requirements as outlined in the proposal sponsored by Del. Israel O’Quinn, R-Bristol.

The bill specifies that pets and their owners could not share the same grave, crypt or niche, and the pet section of the cemetery would have to be clearly marked, according to the narrative.

Approval of the bill would ease many pet owners’ minds and allow the industry to provide more services to families, Hundley said.

Butch Gatewood, manager of Norris Funeral Services, said pre-planning preparations could include the family pet if the bill is approved. However, he noted the change would apply only to cemetery companies, such as Roselawn Burial Park in Martinsville and Patrick Memorial Gardens. It would not affect family or church cemeteries or funeral homes.

Laura Davis, manager of Roselawn Burial Park, said that if the law is approved, a change the policy in Martinsville would be at the discretion of its parent corporation in Pennsylvania.

Davis, Gatewood and Campbell all said that patrons do inquire about burying beloved pets near them.

Currently, there are limited options. The pet’s cremated remains can be placed in the casket with the owner, or if the owner is going to be cremated, the ashes can be combined — mixing the animal’s ashes in with the pet owner’s ashes, Campbell said.

“We have had some that have wanted to have their pet with them so bad, that even if Fido was living when they passed away,” the patron asked about burial options for the pet (i.e., euthanasia and cremation) so the two might rest together forever, he said.

The bill was reported from the General Law Committee on a 19-to-2 vote, but has not yet passed the House, according to online information at www.richmondsunlight.com/bill.

 

 
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