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If you love your pet so much that you want to spend eternity alongside him or her, your wish can now come true in New York.
A new law allows the cremated remains of pets to be buried with their owners in not-for-profit cemeteries regulated by the state.
“For many New Yorkers, their pets are members of the family,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo when he signed bill S02582 into law Sept. 26. “This legislation will roll back this unnecessary regulation and give cemeteries the option to honor the last wishes of pet lovers across New York.”
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Of course, for many people who live elsewhere in the United States, their pets are also considered members of the family. But currently only four other states – Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia – allow pets to be buried with people in the same cemetery, with some restrictions.
New York, like New Jersey, previously only allowed people and animals to be buried together in a pet cemetery. In Pennsylvania and Virginia, cemeteries can have three sections: one for people, one for pets and one for both.
According to New York’s new law, pets are defined as not only dogs and cats, but any “domestic animals that have been adapted or tamed to live in intimate association with people.” Pets and humans must be buried together at the same time, so the law only applies to a pet who has predeceased you. Your pet’s remains must have been cremated at a pet crematorium.
The new law does not include cemeteries owned or operated by religious associations or societies.
If you want to be buried in New York with your dearly departed pet, you must first get written consent from the cemetery. Cemeteries will be required to provide people with a list of charges for having their pets interred, and place all payments in permanent maintenance funds.
“For years now, New Yorkers have desired to have their pets interred in their grave, and cemeteries will now be able to offer this burial option as a result of this new law,” said Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, a Republican, who co-sponsored the bill with Assemblyman James Brennan, a Democrat. The bill was passed unanimously by the state Senate in March and passed the state Assembly 138-1 in June.
One famous New Yorker who wanted to be buried with her pet was “Queen of Mean” hotel magnate Leona Helmsley. When she died in 2007, along with leaving $12 million (later reduced by a judge to a paltry $2 million) to her beloved poodle, Trouble, her will stipulated that Trouble was to be interred beside her in a 12,000-square-foot mausoleum in Westchester County. But because of the existing law, Trouble could not be laid to rest there when she died four years later. With the new law, Helmsley will probably get her wish.
If you don’t live in a state where burial with your pet in a cemetery for humans is legal, there are some interment alternatives to consider. If you want to be cremated, many pet cemeteries allow human cremains to be buried with those of their pets. If you’d prefer to be buried in a casket, it’s not all that unusual for funeral directors to sneak in a container holding your pet’s cremains.
“They will tell you ‘not a day goes by when I don’t put an urn of an animal into the casket of a human being secretly for a family,’ ” Coleen Ellis, co-chair of the Pet Loss Professionals Alliance, told Philly.com in 2013. “So, while it’s been going on for a very long time, the trend is becoming more recognized where people are getting permission to do it.”
There are actually many more states and cemeteries that provide this option. Check out the directories of ‘whole-family cemeteries’ compiled by the Green Pet-Burial Society: https://greenpetburial.org/providers/whole-family-cemeteries/