Where should my pet’s final resting place be?
Losing a much-loved pet is hard enough to cope with, without worrying about where their final resting place will be. Sue Corfield advises.
Amid the shock, grief, and dismay of loss, you need to tackle all the practical issues that follow the death of a pet. These can become a nightmare if you are unprepared, adding to your stress at the worst possible time.
When it comes to finding a final resting place for your pet, there are a number of options to consider.
For as long as man has had pets, burial in the garden or on the owner’s land has been commonplace. Many pet owners choose the traditional option of home burial as it keeps the final resting place close to them and enables them to personalise their own farewell. However, as with many areas of life, there is legislation that may complicate matters. This centres around the placement of the grave as no animal should be buried close to any water courses.
The grave also needs to be quite deep with at least a couple of feet of earth above the pet to prevent scavengers from disturbing the remains.
The body should be wrapped in a towel or sheet for burial purposes. If in doubt, check with your local environment agency.
It is possible to donate your pet’s body to science where he or she can go on to help other pets in need of life-saving surgery.
Veterinary Tissue Bank, the UK’s first ethical animal donor programme, was established a few years ago by vets John Innes, former professor of surgery at University of Liverpool Veterinary School, and Dr Peter Myint, who has extensive experience managing and developing tissue banks for human procedures.
Mirroring the same principles and many of the supply problems that human tissue donation faces, the tissue bank needs owners to come forward to donate their deceased pets’ soft tissue and bone tissue. It is then supplied to vets throughout the UK and Europe for surgical procedures such as cruciate ligament injuries and stem cell therapy.
Dr Myint said: “A single donation can help as many as 50 or 60 pets. Our ability to fulfil this commitment depends entirely on the generosity of pet owner donors who are willing to make this life-saving or life-enhancing gift to others.
“Willing owners can donate their deceased pet’s tissue to benefit recipient patients and just as in human medicine, donors are treated with the utmost respect at all times.”
Once tissues have been retrieved, Veterinary Tissue Bank arranges a cremation and then returns the pet’s ashes to the owners.
There’s no direct benefit for people who donate other than the knowledge that they are helping other pets who might not otherwise be able to walk properly again, or who may lose a leg because they can’t access a correct graft. This can be an enormous consolation for people who are suffering following the loss of a pet.
All potential donor animals are screened to make sure they meet strict criteria which includes a full medical history and record of vaccinations. They also need to be free of any infectious disease or cancer. Your vet should have full details of the scheme, but if not contact VTB on 01691 778769 or visit www.vtbank.org
Cremation is a popular option among pet owners and many arrange this directly through their vet. But beware — it is important to check the details of the service they are offering you and the costs.
The truth is that many pets left at the vet’s for an individual or communal cremation service will be taken away in a van, often alongside the clinical waste generated by the vet, and may be simply ‘processed’ rather than respectfully cared for by these types of companies.
When it comes to the costs, check carefully exactly what you can expect for what price. Cremation charges vary according to the size of pet. Veterinary practices may pay just a few pounds for arranging a communal cremation but the charge to clients is likely to be considerably more.
Kevin Spurgeon, director of the Association of Private Pet Cemeteries and Crematoria and owner of Dignity — a Hampshirebased pet crematorium — commented: “If I had to give just one piece of advice to a pet owner looking for a final resting place for their pet, it would be: don’t use the service offered by your vet without first looking at other alternatives. The APPCC has a list of crematoria around the UK that have been visited and assessed by the association and are offering a clearly described, respectful, quality service.
“When choosing a pet crematorium it is important that you ask the right questions and make an informed decision. A pet cremation service should include how pets are stored, transported, handled and cremated. Many vets are now being offered large financial incentives to only offer the pet cremation services of a weekly collection firm. It makes sense to ask lots of questions and do your own research before deciding on your course of action.”
When it comes to the grieving process, most pet rehoming charities offer advice on their websites or provide leaflets. Time is a great healer. It is hard to come to terms with your loss at first and some people find it impossible to envisage taking on another pet, but others are keen to bring another one into their lives as soon as they can.