The Cost of Pet Burial
Pet Owners Choose Between Cremation and Burial
It is perhaps the most dreaded part of pet ownership: Saying goodbye to your beloved pet companion.
Burying Sparky or Bella in the backyard may not be an option, so in the midst of grief you’re faced with a difficult choice: Pet cemetery or cremation?
For many, the choice is determined by the cost of laying their pet to rest.
The Los Angeles Memorial Park & Crematory, located in Calabasas, Calif., is a famous pet cemetery roughly 25 miles north of downtown L.A.
The “L.A. Pet Park” is a 10 acre resting place for nearly 45,000 pets – dogs, cats, ferrets, birds, lizards, horses and a few celebrities, including Spot from “The Little Rascals” and Tawny, the original lion in the film adaptation of “Tarzan.” Charlie Chaplin’s cat Boots is buried here, so is Droopy, Humphrey Bogart’s dog and, more recently, one of actor Gary Sinese’s pets.
The property was purchased in 1928 by the Jones brothers, one a veterinarian looking for a private space to bury his pets, the other a real estate developer. In a short period of time, the land became a burial site for more than just family pets – and Los Angeles County’s first pet cemetery. The park, now owned by a non-profit group of animal lovers called S.O.P.H.I.E (for Save Our Pets' History in Eternity), recently celebrated its 85th anniversary.
The cost to bury your pet at L.A. Pet Park, says property manager Emad Whitney, varies on the size of the burial lot a pet owner purchases.
“Lots are sold by size, not location,” he explains. “A five to six pound cat, for instance, would be buried in one of our smaller lots. The cost of the lot is $60 and the cost of a simple casket (made out of carbon fiber) is $66.”
The burial of a 70 pound dog, by comparison, would cost $984. The price, says Whitney, can become inflated if the owner chooses a different casket. Amenities such as a burial service and lifelong maintenance of your pet’s lot are included. Additional costs include a granite headstone, with prices starting at $310.
While many pet owners may prefer to inter their pets in a peaceful location where they may regularly visit, not everyone can afford the expense.
“We’ve definitely noticed a difference in the number of burials during the recession,” acknowledges Whitney. “More pet owners are choosing private cremations as an alternative.”
Although cremation fees for pets may be less than interment, the prices for this alternative still vary widely based on services and location.
Many pet cemeteries offer cremation as one of their services, while pet crematory businesses exist solely to provide one service only.
At Garden’s Edge is a pet crematory service located in Alhambra, Calif., less than 10 minutes from Los Angeles. Owners Scott and Teresa Summerville went into the aftercare business following a less than satisfactory experience after the death of one of their cats.
“We realized that we had absolutely no clarity how her cremation would be done,” says Scott Summerville. “We weren’t adequately informed about the process when we opted for an individual cremation. We were initially satisfied – until we discovered that we were led astray by the term ‘individual cremation.’”
Having learned that “individual cremation” is industry jargon for “communal” cremation, the Summervilles, who also operate a non-profit pet rescue organization, decided to offer a more transparent service to grieving pet owners.
“At Garden’s Edge offers ‘private’ cremation of cherished pets,” explains Summerville. “This is the true term for cremating one pet’s remains at a time – not a group cremation of multiple pets.”
Fees for a private cremation vary based on the pet’s size: To give you an idea, a cat weighing less than 15 pounds will cost $220, a dog weighing less than 15 pounds will cost $245.
The start-to-finish process from At Garden’s Edge includes an at-home or veterinary pickup at your convenience, the transfer to the crematory for a private service after which your pet’s ashes, now in a blue velvet bag, are placed in a wooden chest and then hand-delivered to you at home. The service also includes a keepsake clay paw print inscribed with your pet’s name and date of passing.
Pet owners may also make arrangements to attend the crematory service with Summerville, if they wish to be part of the process.
“Cremation is a way to keep our pets close to us without burying them,” adds Summerville. “Losing a pet is incredibly painful. In the midst of grief, you take a leap of faith by trusting someone else to handle your pet’s passing. It’s important that we can help provide closure to other pet owners.”
Special Services for Your Pet’s Death
Pet cemeteries and cremation services, such as At Garden’s Edge, are beginning to offer additional services to assist pet owners in preparation of their pet’s passing. At-home euthanasia by a participating veterinarian is another means to reduce anxiety for both the pet and the pet owner.
“Pets feel more at ease passing away at home, on a favorite bed with toys and familiar smells there to comfort them,” says Summerville. “The transition from living to dead is easier for everyone.”
Another service: grief counseling. Licensed marriage and family therapists are available to help pet owners get through the stages of grief over losing a pet.
The Los Angeles Memorial Park & Crematory offers an organic approach. The park has a monthly candlelight vigil for pet owners, during which time they can share stories of their lost companions with one another.
“So many people come just to talk about the pets they’ve lost,” says Whitney. “They may not have friends who understand their grief. Here, everyone understands – it helps pet owners deal with the loss they’re feeling.”