May 31, 2014 in Features

Pet memorials range from sky to bottom of sea

Pet memorials range from sky to bottom of sea
Sue Manning Associated Press

Beloved family cats are memorialized in the Los Angeles Pet Cemetery.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

LOS ANGELES – More pets are buried in U.S. backyards than any other place, but that is becoming illegal in more and more places. For those who want something unique, though, the sky’s the limit, literally.

From companies that will send your pet’s remains to the heavens to those who will help scatter them at sea – or turn them into a man-made gemstone for your favorite broach – there’s a vast array of options.

PET CEMETERY: Includes a plot of ground or mausoleum space. You can buy a headstone or plaque. Cemetery burial can cost several hundred to several thousand dollars depending on size, location, grave marker, type of casket or cremation, urn and other costs.

AQUAMATION: This method is similar to cremation, but it’s done with water-based technology that leaves pure ash reminiscent of powdery beach sand, said Jerry Shevick, CEO of Peaceful Pets Aquamation Inc. in Newbury Park, California. The process is called alkaline hydrolysis. It is legal for humans in seven states and legal for pets in every state. The nearly green, 20-minute process ranges from $75 to $350 depending on size.

LIFEGEM DIAMONDS: LifeGem is a 13-year-old company in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, that turns strands of hair or remains of a pet (or person) into a synthetic diamond that costs from $1,999 to $24,999.

BALLOON LIFT: The Eternal Ascent Society in Newport Richey, Florida, will send your pet’s remains to the heavens, said Joanie West, who has owned the company for 16 years. She puts remains (pet or person) in a 5-foot round balloon, adds helium and releases it at a tree- and wire-free location the family chooses. The balloons come in red, yellow, green and blue. Families usually choose a service with music, gifts and remembrances. They can let the balloons go. Around 5 miles up at 40 degrees, the balloon fractures and the ashes are caught in high winds and scattered. Balloons start at $399.

BURIAL AT SEA: Ashes on the Sea, which serves California and Hawaii, will scatter a pet’s ashes at sea for $250 to $350, said Capt. Ken Shortridge. Families can watch from boat or shore, and there are several ceremonies to choose from. Ashes can be placed in a wicker basket lined with tea leaves, covered with rose petals and set on the water. When flipped, the ashes form the illusion of an underwater wreath, and you can watch them drift toward the bottom of the sea.

BACKYARD: More pets are buried in backyards than anywhere else. But it is illegal in many places. Los Angeles, for example, bans the burial of any animal or fowl except in an established cemetery.

It’s also illegal in the city of Spokane, though pets 15 pounds or less can be wrapped in plastic and disposed of with the household waste.

In unincorporated Spokane County, however, it’s legal.

“We get calls on this all the time,” said Mike LaScuola of the Spokane Regional Health District.

LaScuola said pets, farm animals or wildlife must be buried away from surface water, 100 feet away from a well and least 5 feet above the groundwater table. The animal must be throughly covered in quick lime and buried at least 2 feet deep.

In Kootenai County, it’s also legal, with similar rules about how and where to bury animals. The Panhandle Health District recommends calling 811 before digging a grave for a large animal to make sure there are no lines, pipes or cables in the area.

CREMATION: Costs vary depending on location, pet size and extras. The Caring Pet Crematory in Sacramento charges $140 for a pet less than 20 pounds and $275 for a pet from 151 to 200 pounds. Urns also vary in cost.

VETERINARIANS: Bonnie Beaver, a professor at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and executive director of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, says most pet owners – an estimated 70 percent – leave the body with their veterinarian. The vet usually uses communal cremation.

Beaver says taking a pet’s body home for burial is the next most popular method for owners, followed by cremation.

Staff writer Kimberly Lusk contributed to this report.

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