When Spartan the Chihuahua dies, his owners say he deserves proper respect.
Becca Gleave, her husband and her son had brought Spartan to the SpokAnimal Dog Park on Friday when a reporter approached to ask if they’d consider using a pet funeral home.
“That’s a comforting thought,” Gleave said. “He’s a member of our family. I would use that for sure.”
Fairmount Memorial Association officials are banking on more pet owners like Gleave as they prepare a new pet care complex that eventually will include a pet funeral home. The association is a nonprofit organization that operates five cemeteries in Spokane County.
Last year, the group broke ground on Pet Haven Park, north of Riverside Memorial Park on Government Way. Fairmount President Duane Broyles said the first phase of the project will cost about $1 million and will include a private dog park and pet day care center. Once that’s established, perhaps in a couple of years, the association will move forward on a pet funeral home and crematorium, which will cost around $500,000.
As more people consider their pets members of the family, there’s growing demand for more proper care of pet remains and improved ways to deal with grief after a pet dies, Broyles said.
Broyles said he likely would use the services of a pet funeral home even though he considers himself a dog owner rather than a dog parent.
“As I talk to people, they see themselves as ‘pet parents,’ ” Broyles said. “They look at their pets as children.”
Pet Haven Park will be a for-profit operation, as is the neighboring Heritage Funeral Home (which is for people and also owned by Fairmount).
“It will only take a couple of years for us to be profitable with it,” Broyles said. “That brings us a decent revenue stream, which will eventually enhance the cemetery operation.”
The project, however, has had a rough start.
Spokane County ordered construction halted on the site last fall. County records show that Gary Saiki, the project architect and a Fairmount board member, received a building permit for only one of the three structures on the site.
And in January, the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department, in partnership with SpokAnimal C.A.R.E. opened the city’s first dog park about a mile away at High Bridge Park.
Boyles said Fairmount is committed to working through the permitting problems and that Pet Haven Park could open as early as October, though next spring also is possible.
Pet Haven Park is modeled after Hillcrest-Flynn Pet Funeral Home and Crematory in Hermitage, Penn. Hillcrest-Flynn also has a private dog park.
The pet funeral home opened in 2006 and expects to cremate or bury about 625 animals this year, said Roberta Knauf, director of the Hillcrest-Flynn Pet Funeral Home and Crematory.
“This is not a trend,” Knauf said. “This is something that will stay.”
Broyles said new streams of revenue are important for the cemeteries as more people choose cremation and opt not to have a permanent marker in a cemetery.
He said 65 percent of the people who die in Spokane County are cremated, and while some bury ashes in a cemetery, many spread them elsewhere.
Knauf said the pet business aids the people funeral business. In many cases, the loss of a pet is the first time children deal with a death.
“When they bring Fluffy in and they have a service, when that child sees that, and when Grandma passes, that child will say, ‘I want nothing less for Grandma,’” Knauf said.
Hillcrest-Flynn charges between $195 to $295 for a basic cremation, which includes pick-up, return of ashes, a paw print and a grief management packet. Prices can approach $1,000 for full funeral service and burial, Knauf said.
Broyles said Fairmount has no plans to offer burial because the vast majority of pets are cremated, but they do plan to offer pick-up, funeral and grief services. A pet columbarium – a niche for urns – may be considered at a later date.
Pet Haven would be the first pet funeral home in the area, but it will have competition in the pet death industry.
Family Pet Memorial Pet Crematory and Cemetery, based in Colbert, offers a pick-up service and guarantees that the ashes returned to owners are only those of the owner’s pet. Dmitri Zaslavsky, owner of Family Pet Memorial, said many crematories, burn the remains of multiple animals at the same time.
He said the average cost to an owner is about $160.
“We want to make sure we give our dogs the same respect in death that we did in their life,” said Dmitri Zaslavsky, owner of Family Pet Memorial. “It brings them a lot of comfort that it is just their pet with no possibility of co-mingling.”
Pet Haven will start by offering a private dog park. Members will pay about $300 a year for 24-hour access to the park.
Broyles said he’s confident that the private park can compete against free dog parks because dogs will be temperament tested and must show proof of vaccination.
“You don’t run the risk you do in a public dog park of having fights,” Broyle said.
Among the half dozen or so dog owners at SpokAnimal’s dog park early Friday afternoon, most said they didn’t see the need to pay for a dog park because fights are rare and owners are serious about enforcing the rules.
“I call it Dogstock – as in Woodstock – because it’s so peaceful,” said Pat Coleman, who brought his Russian wolfhound Stoli to the park.
But some said they would consider using the dog day care and most said they like the idea of being able to have their pets’ ashes returned to them, even if they don’t need a funeral service.
“I move so much,” said Megan Bath-Brison, who was at the park with her German shepherds, Charlie and Teakah. “I’m going to try to take my dogs with me.”