When a pet dies, some families opt to dig a hole in the backyard and hold an informal funeral for their pet. Others leave them with the vet, but there are many pet owners out there who consider their pet as a member of the family.
And as a member of the family, when their animal dies, some people want to give their pet a proper burial in a pet cemetery where they can mourn their loved ones passing.
Prairie Home Cemetery, the city-owned cemetery between Prairie and South West avenues just north of Sunset Drive, received approvals years ago to build a pet cemetery for cremated animals but because of budget reasons, the project has gone to the “back burner,” according to Cemetery Manager David Brenner. The Cemetery Commission and officials from Humane Animal Welfare Society came together in late November and formed an exploratory committee to see what can be done to get the project moving forward.
“A significant number of people want to do something, sometimes in a very inexpensive manner but still do something,” said Brenner. “It is open-ended as to how much people will spend for a loved animal. That was one of the reasons why we went into this.”
The city-run cemetery depends on the tax base for a portion of its financial support and has been looking for ways to generate revenue to lessen that dependency. The pet cemetery could be one of those ways if the money is found in its budget to begin the first phase. That’s what the exploratory committee will address.
The majority of the cost would be landscaping and removing an old iron fence from the area. Brunner would also like to see if local artists would be willing to donate time to create murals on a nearby maintenance building.
H.A.W.S. will be looking at fundraisers and grant possibilities as well, according to Brenner.
“We are going to try to do it with minimal expense, and if there is expense, see if there are areas within the budget that we might be able to put toward this,” Brenner said. “It should be providing a really good service and a needed service that a lot of people want, so that will generate revenue. Can we come up with creative solutions to make this happen?”
H.A.W.S. runs a crematorium but is unable to staff a memorial garden or other types of pet burial sites at its location on Northview Road, according to Lynn Olenik, executive director of the animal shelter.
Olenik said H.A.W.S. was approached by donors who are possibly interested in an area pet cemetery. H.A.W.S. would not be using funds to help with the project from its daily shelter operations.
“They are interested in providing people who are grieving for their pets an opportunity for a more lasting memorial,” Olenik said. “Everybody grieves in a different way. … Some people who have pets are lacking that opportunity.”
People are more transient and are unable to bury their pets in their backyards. Others who live in apartment buildings do not have the land to memorialize their pets, she said.
“It is a matter of what do you do with these pets’ ashes,” Olenik said. “… This offers people an opportunity to do something more permanent and in a tasteful manner.”