Recent trends are changing towards this traditional method of pet aftercare as more and more pet carers prefer not to bury their pet at home for a variety of reasons. However, home burial is still a popular choice for smaller pets such as hamsters, guinea pigs, budgies etc.
The main reason being that people, nowadays, do not tend to live in the same house
for the majority of their lives, and when they move, they do not wish to leave their beloved pet behind in the garden.
If a house is owned by a local authority, burying pets in a garden may not be permitted. The law changes from time to time and it’s important that you check the current law regarding burial of domestic pets and equine.
There can be restrictions on home burial if the vet deems the deceased pet to be hazardous - a danger to health - for example if a pet has received chemotherapy prior to its death. This is rare, however if you have any concerns contact SEPA, DEFRA or your local environmental health department, who will guide you to the correct department to deal with this.
Finding the right place in a garden to bury a pet is very important. Anyone who is burying a pet should prepare the grave to a depth of at least three feet and you should remember to factor in the additional depth the pet will take once they are placed into the grave e.g. if a pet lying on its side is 12 inches in height this extra depth should be accounted for when digging the grave. This involves a tremendous amount of digging, and during the winter, the ground may also be exceptionally hard. In most home burials, pet carers do not realise how deep they should actually dig their pet’s grave, and many pets are placed in exceptionally shallow graves.
Unfortunately, many pet carers subsequently discover that their pet’s grave has been disturbed by another animal; foxes being the main culprits.
Most family pets buried in the garden are usually wrapped in their favourite blanket, however there are a wide variety of pet coffins available; from more traditional ornate wooden coffins to environmentally friendly willow, bamboo or cardboard types.
Ideally, not only should the grave be approximately three feet deep, but a heavy object, such as a concrete slab or stone, should be placed on top of the grave to prevent the grave being disturbed until the ground has completely settled.
Consideration should be given to the fact that there may be utility pipes or cables running below the chosen grave site, or if there is likely to be any future building work on the site.
Small pets are often buried in the garden, and if they were a child’s pet, the child may want to make all the arrangements for the burial, including the service. The child can write a few lines about why their pet was so special. Making a suitable marker for the pet’s grave can make the child feel that their input is important.
In recent years, there has been an increase in pet carers wishing to have their pets exhumed from their garden, usually because they are moving house and wish to re-bury their pet at their new home, or wish to have their pet cremated and scatter the ashes in a favourite place. Some pet crematoria will offer an exhumation service.
If a pet carer plans to exhume a pet at a later date, they should wrap their pet in a waterproof cover and mark the grave clearly. Ideally though, they should place their pet into a plastic or steel box prior to burial.
Advantages of home burial –
Disadvantages of home burial –
Pet Cemetery Burial
The location and accessibility of the pet cemetery is important, in order that the pet carer can visit the pet’s grave. A pet carer should, where possible, visit the cemetery beforehand, to check that they have the appropriate licence to operate, and that the grounds are well maintained.
Pet cemetery burials can be fairly expensive compared to cremation, an average starting price is in the region of £500 for a small pet, coupled with an annual maintenance charge for the upkeep of the cemetery.
The pet carer should also select a coffin, headstone and agree the type of service (e.g. if family are to be present).
There is not the same demand for pet cemeteries compared with crematoria. Pet cemeteries are all privately owned and licensed by the Environmental Protection Agency. Those who own pet cemeteries require a waste management licence to operate, and a pet cemetery falls into the category of a landfill site.
Land is such a valuable commodity that few land owners are prepared to turn their land over for the purpose of a pet cemetery, as once an area is designated as a landfill site, it becomes virtually worthless.
Being privately owned, the land could potentially be sold, or taken over by another family member who may not wish to continue operating the cemetery, both of which would cause great distress to a pet carer.
It should be noted that by law pets are not allowed to be buried in hallowed ground - a human cemetery, nor are you allowed to bury pets’ ashes in a human cemetery. However you can be buried beside your pet, usually woodland burials, although no headstones are permitted.
Some pet cemeteries will bury human ash alongside their pet, one such cemetery is in Holywell North Wales.
Advantages of pet cemetery burial –
Disadvantages of pet cemetery burial –
Woodland burial offers an eco-friendly and meaningful alternative to traditional pet
cemetery burials. Woodland cemeteries are home to a broad variety of wildlife and woodland plants, reinforcing the concept of the renewal of life. A young tree is planted on the site of the grave and the tree is tagged for identification.
With this type of burial, pets and humans are often buried alongside one another (providing they have not been embalmed), and may be the ideal solution for those wishing their pet to be buried near them.
Prices vary depending on the cemetery. However, they do tend to be marginally less expensive than a traditional pet cemetery. Headstones are not usually permitted in a woodland burial.
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