Pet Funeral industry undertaking major changes

by P-Francone

This pet cemetery, closed off to the public, is located in Hyde Park in London, England.

Having a pet pass away can be a terrible experience, but even more difficult has been trying to figure out what to do with your pet’s remains afterward. Many pet owners consider their furry friend to be a member of their family, so it can be hard to simply bury their body without ceremony in the backyard, or levee the body with the vet for them to deal with.

Coleen A. Ellis had this same problem after putting down her 14-year-old terrier schnauzer at the veterinarian’s office in 2003. A local funeral home agreed to cremate Mico, but while she was there they told her that they couldn’t turn on the lights because there was a “real funeral” down the hall.

She vowed to make changes, and a year later she did, opening up the country’s first stand-alone pet funeral home in Indianapolis. She started a trend, between then and 2011 the industry has ballooned, with an estimated 750 pet funeral homes, pet crematories and pet cemeteries across the United States.

Ellis has since sold her pet mortuary, and started up Two Hearts Pet Loss Center, which helps people arrange memorial services and grieve the loss of pets. She also helped to start the Pet Loss Professionals Alliance in 2009 as a committee of the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association. The organization and industry have both grown since then, they had their second annual conference in March 2011.

Memorial services for pets can be very moving ceremonies for many people, such as when Bo, a police dog with the Indianapolis Metro Police was shot and killed by a burglar. Ellis was asked to set up the memorial service for Bo, his service was attended by 150 people from the department and the community. The service was respectful, but didn’t go overboard. “We keep it in perspective. We are losing soldiers daily in Afghanistan and Iraq and police officers are dying throughout the United States every week. We never want to take away from their service or what they are doing for the community,” Lt. Benny Diggs said.

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