What Should I Do With a Deceased Pet?

It's something that no pet owner wants to think about — saying goodbye to our beloved companions. Assuming you see your pet's life all the way until the end, the sad truth is that you will have to say goodbye, at some point. With the potential for so many feelings to come up at that time, thinking about what to do with your pet's remains is not something most people want to think about, but it's an important detail that must be addressed. Whether you've had time to plan for their after-life services, or were forced to part ways before you expected to, there are several options for safely and respectfully handling your pet's body after their soul has moved on.

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Burial options for your pet

After their pet has moved on from this life, many people like to bury them, sometimes with a memorial marker to acknowledge or visit. If you're a homeowner or live on a property where burial is allowed, burying your pet close to you can be a great way to continue to feel connected to your pet. Many people find comfort with the idea that the pet will be laid to rest in a space that was familiar to them, as well, especially if they can be buried in a favorite corner of the yard, or under a tree they enjoyed resting or playing near. The ASPCA does warn, however, that not all properties will allow for pet burial, so always check with your local laws or terms of agreement if you're part of a homeowner's association. The same thing goes for public land, like parks or even some forested areas. If you wish to bury your pet but cannot bury them on or around your property, check online for pet cemeteries in your area, which offer a safe place for pets to rest after they have passed on.

Cremating pets after death

Another option is to cremate your pet, which is becoming an increasingly popular option among pet owners. Cremations are offered either as an individual service, which means that your pet will be cremated alone, and their ashes can be returned to you, if you wish. Group cremations are another option, which cost less than individual services because pets are given a communal cremation, and so the return of their ashes is not possible. If your pet has been euthanized, either at your veterinarian's office or by a doctor in a home setting, the practice will typically have a relationship with a local crematory service, and will handle all arrangements once you decide which route you wish to take.

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Once the ashes are returned, people will typically either keep, bury, or scatter their pets ashes. For those who wish to scatter the ashes of their pets at a national park, many will allow you to do so, with permission granted by the specific part. To scatter ashes at Yosemite, for example, pet owners must submit an application, and adhere to specific guidelines, like scattering off of trails and waterways. Additional options, like having your pet's ashes pressed into a piece of jewelry, or having them blown into a glass ornament, are also possibilities, along with countless others.

Choices for those in need of financial help

Of course, not everyone will be in a position to have their beloved pet cremated or buried in a cemetery due to financial constraints. We often can't predict when our pets will move on, and some people undergo serious financial burden caring for sick pets in the later stages of their lives. Group cremation is less expensive than individual cremation, and while you will not have your pet's remains returned to you, if cremation is important to you, you can have this wish realized thanks to such services.

For those with absolutely no financial room to do anything with their pet's remains, there are local services that can help with the removal of the body, safely and securely. Calling 311 in many areas will dispatch an animal control officer to your home, who will safely remove your pet's remains for you, at no cost. Additionally, your local city or county animal shelter may be able to help you with the disposal of your pet's remains, at little to no cost to you. Often, these services will result in your pet being taken to your local landfill, which many not be something everyone is comfortable with. As with any after life option, reach out and ask any questions you need to have answered in order to make an informed decision about handling your pet's remains.

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Additional options

While burial and cremation are the most traditional ways to send your pet's body off, there are additional options for those looking for services that, perhaps, better suited their pet's personality. Rather than cremating your pet's remains, which uses extreme heat to disintegrate the body, Aquamation, a service offered by pet funeral home Resting Waters, relies on flowing water to gently break down organic matter. Taxidermy, in which an animal is freeze dried, then stuffed with cotton, is another option, although this is not terribly common for house pets, and is more often seen done with wild game.

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