The Growing demand for pet funerals

words: Lisa McCafferty

Animal lovers are spending thousands on lavish funerals for their furry companions, it has emerged.

According to the latest statistics revealed by Mintel, a quarter of UK pet owners have either organised funeral services for their animals already, or would consider doing so in the future.

While traditionally people would bury their dead cats or dogs in the back garden, or even flush their goldfish down the toilet, a new generation of pet owners are saying goodbye in an altogether different way. And with an estimated 10,000 pet funerals taking place in Britain each year, the industry is booming.

Thanks to the growing demand there are now more than 50 crematoriums and cemeteries across Britain offering pet funerals. These come complete with personalised tombstones, custom-made coffins, religious blessings, private cremation services and bereavement counselling to help people come to terms with the death of their pet.

Many people find that having a funeral helps them deal with the grieving process better that the more clinical means that veterinary practices tend to employ when handling pet deaths.

Nick Ricketts, a Director with the Association of Private Pet Cemeteries and Crematoria, said: “Funerals and cremations are getting more and more popular. I have had thousands of customers in the past year and the same would go for the rest of the industry.”

Nick has had to bury five of his own cats and dogs since starting his Paws to Rest Pet Bereavement Service 20 years ago.

Still a devoted owner – he has dogs, chickens, a horse and a cat – Nick reckons the boom in pet burials is down to people finding the loss of an animal just as heartbreaking as that of a lover or relative.

He said: “Owners can get extremely distraught, and we’re here to help them give their companions some dignity instead of just slinging them in the ground.

“Before people heard about this service, all they could do was bury the pet in the garden or take it to the vet, where it would be put in a freezer before being disposed of. But when granddad dies you don’t stuff him in a doctor’s freezer or bury him in the back garden. The same should go for pets who have given a lifetime of devotion.”

Sometimes, bereaved pet owners want to keep something to remind them of their dearly departed. One company has emerged as testament to this trend.

After losing her beloved dog Bassey, Beryl Weir set up Pet Memories in Glass from her home in Frodsham, where she creates meaningful keepsakes containing pets’ ashes.

Beryl, who owns dogs, fish, finches, quails, a skink and a parrot, said: “As a pet lover, I understand the special place a pet holds in your life.

“After the loss of our dog, Bassey, we scattered the ashes in the front garden, but then I began to wish we had a more lasting memento to remember her by.”

As Beryl worked with glass, making jewellery, wind chimes and decorations, for more than 10 years, she decided to utilise her skills to create such keepsakes by encasing a small amount of an animal’s ashes in glass. Pet Memories in Glass products include keepsake pots, memory pendants and candles curves, which range from £48 to £84.

The ashes are mixed with flakes of mica, which give the finished product gold and silver speckles. They and two layers of glass are fused together, then cooled, smoothed, washed and re-fired over a mould in a time-consuming process which takes between two and four days.

Beryl added: “I feel that I offer a unique, respectful and intimate service, where people can come to my home-based workshop and help create the items, if they wish. My promise to owners is, ‘at all times I will look after your pet memory as if it were my own’.”

As a nation of animal lovers, many Brits see their pet as one of the family, so this phenomenon is only expected to grow.

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