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Some pet owners trying to extend human-animal bond into the afterlife


National Report - The bond between people and their pets has been well-documented, but in certain segments of the population, the trend goes deeper ... way deeper.

NATIONAL REPORT — The bond between people and their pets has been well-documented, but in a certain segment of the population, that trend goes deeper ... way deeper.

Some pet owners are looking for ways to stay with their pets for eternity, some going as far as requesting that their remains be interred with their pets.

"What we're trying to do with the cemetery ... is make folks who lose a pet feel a little better. Some folks get lost in the grief of losing a pet," says Edward Martin Jr., president and director of Hartsdale Pet Cemetery, just 30 minutes from Manhattan. At 115 years old, Hartsdale was started by a veterinarian in 1896 and is believed to be America's first pet cemetery.

Hartsdale recorded its first pet/owner buried in the 1920s, and Martin says there has been more interest in recent years. Although he didn't begin his career at Hartsdale until 1976, Martin estimates up to 700 people are buried among the cemetery's roughly 75,000 pets. Martin's own mother and father are among those, and he hopes to join them one day.

But recent media attention to the cemeteries practice has raised questions with local regulators in New York. Martin says the cemetery previously was told that human remains could be buried at Hartsdale as long as they were cremated. Now, that might not be the case, and human interments have been put on hold for the time being.

Prior to the recent questions about human burials at the cemetery, Martin says Hartsdale didn't advertise the service, but made accommodations on request.

"It was always an accommodation for people who have a plot here for their pets. We never have or will never sell a plot for people if there are no pets here," Martin says, adding that cremated human remains are added to existing animal plots. Animal burial services cost about $200 at Hartsdale, he says. The cost to add remains to an existing plot, whether human or animal, is only the labor cost of opening the existing plot.

Although requests to be interred with pets have increased, Martin says the cemetery still only does seven or eight per year, up until now anyway.

About a quarter of the 200 members of the International Association of Pet Cemeteries and Crematories will allow humans to be buried with their pets, according to an estimation from the organization.

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