Column: Now you can spend an eternity with your pets

10/29/2016 9:00 AM |

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Thanks to a bill signed last month by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, your beloved pet can now be legally buried with you.

The legislation allows New Yorkers to be interred with their pet’s cremated remains at nearly 1,900 nonprofit cemeteries around the state — provided they receive written consent from cemetery officials.

“The pet/caregiver relationship is a very special one and I am happy that this relationship will finally be honored,” Assemblyman James Brennan (D-Brooklyn), who co-sponsored the bill with state Senator Michael Ranzenhofer (R-Erie County), said in a press release last month. In 2013, a state law made it legal for the cremated remains of humans to be interred with their animals at .

The new legislation, which requires cemeteries to provide customers with a list of charges associated with interring a pet’s ashes, doesn’t apply to burial grounds owned by religious organizations. Since it’s under federal jurisdiction, Calverton National Cemetery is also exempt.

Nonprofit cemeteries in Riverhead Town include Baiting Hollow Cemetery, Jamesport Cemetery, Riverhead Cemetery, Sound Avenue Cemetery in Northville and Wading River Cemetery. Also on the North Fork are Bethany Cemetery in Mattituck, Cutchogue Cemetery in New Suffolk, Sterling Cemetery in Greenport and Orient Central Cemetery.

Under the new legislation, cemeteries would also be mandated to deposit all payments for pet interments into their permanent maintenance funds.

For Douglas Mathie, owner of Horton-Mathie Funeral Home in Greenport, the bill is a no-brainer.

“Since the conception of people being buried, and cats and dogs being cremated, this has been a common practice for many, many years,” said Mr. Mathie, who added that his funeral home has received requests for people to be buried with the remains of their pets “many times” over the years.

“It’s common,” he said. “It’s addressed.”

Joe Grattan, funeral director at DeFriest-Grattan Funeral Home, which has locations in Mattituck, Southold and Shelter Island, said he hasn’t received such a request in his five decades in the industry. However, he would be happy to accommodate families who would like to take advantage of the new bill.

“To put it simply, as long as it’s OK with the cemetery and that’s what the family wants, that’s what we do,” Mr. Grattan said.

Gail Horton, who lives in Greenport with her 14-year-old dog, Sparky, said the new bill appeals to her — particularly since she now lives in an apartment complex and wouldn’t be able to bury the Jack Russell in her backyard.

“I think pets have become more important to people, particularly since people are living longer,” said Ms. Horton, whose husband died several years ago. “If you don’t have a spouse, it’s someone to talk to.”

With any luck, Sparky will enjoy many more years with his beloved owner. But when the time comes, he won’t be lonely for eternity: Ms. Horton has decided to have his ashes interred alongside her.

“I would do it,” she said. “Affirmative.”

Photo credit: Grant Parpan

Rachel Young is a staff writer and copy editor at Times Review Media Group

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