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Spending more time — say, forever — with your pet

By Jim Fitzgerald

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Feb. 5 2011 12:55 p.m. MST

Doyle Shugart, who owns two Deceased Pet Care cemeteries in Bethlehem and Douglasville, Ga., and is chairman of the cemetery association's ethics and standards committee, has heard of no legal hurdles elsewhere. He said regulations vary from state to state. Pets are banned from most human cemeteries, he said, but some allow an urn of animal ashes in a person's casket.

One of Shugart's cemeteries includes a section called "Horseshoe Gardens," for the cremated remains of horses. It's open to the horses' owners, too.

At least one famous pet cemetery won't let humans in. David Stiller, president of the board of directors for the Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park, where Charlie Chaplin's cat and Humphrey Bogart's dog are buried, said, "We don't think we're a human cemetery and we don't want to get into that."

He said he wouldn't be surprised, however, if there was some "unauthorized scattering" of owners' ashes over pets' graves.

Several owners are leaving instructions in their wills, said Bill Remkus, owner of the Hinsdale Animal Cemetery in Willowbrook, Ill., where the ashes of 35 people are interred.

"More people are asking about it and putting their wishes in writing. They don't care anymore what other people think," he said.

Martin says Hartsdale will bury any animal, "as long as someone says, 'This is a pet.'"

He says 90 percent of the animals are dogs and cats, but records also show birds, guinea pigs, ferrets, iguanas, turtles, monkeys, rabbits, fish, rats and a lion cub. Celebrities from George Raft to Mariah Carey have buried pets there.

"There is a legend of an elephant, but I can't verify that," said Martin, who took over the cemetery in 1974 and plans to have his ashes buried there.

In 2008, a travel guide listed the cemetery among the world's 10 best places to be entombed — along with the Taj Mahal and the Great Pyramids.

One headstone topped with an urn in Hartsdale is marked for Jack and Peggy MacPherson "and their beloved pets." The MacPhersons are in the urn, the pets under ground.

"We don't allow that any more," Martin said. "The urn is too precarious."

One no-nonsense marker simply says "Planted Here" and names Alfred H. Profe, who lived from 1920-1996. Then it adds "forever with pals" and names his pets Patches and Yahootie.

Prices at Hartsdale vary depending on the size and location of the plot, Martin said. It costs $1,300 to put a cremated cat into an inexpensive plot. Opening the grave to add a human's remains — or another cat's — costs $235.

The perpetual care requirement is an upfront $1,800 payment.

Levy, who lives in the Bronx, has been burying pets at Hartsdale since 2001 — her dog Snow and cats Putchke, Pumpkin and Twinkie. Another cat, Shaina, is still alive but is listed on the grave marker. Levy has two plots because she buries the animals in cherrywood caskets and no more than three can fit in a grave.

"I've never seen a human cemetery as beautifully kept," she said. "Besides, you really cannot compare a human cemetery with a pet cemetery. People are obligated to bury their dead, whereas burying pets shows there's extra love."

Levy said she always told her pets, upon leaving the house, "Mommy will be home soon," and those words are inscribed on the older grave marker. The newer one, which is heart-shaped, says, "Mommy's home."

AP Researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed to this report.

Online:

Hartsdale Pet Cemetery: www.petcem.com

Deceased Pet Care: www.deceasedpetcare.com

Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park: http://www.lapetcemetery.com

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