KENT, Ohio -- Families have been known to skirt cemetery rules in trying to reunite Fido or Patches with their owners, slipping a tiny tub of ashes into a casket or sprinkling their remains at a grave site when no one's looking.
But come spring, animal lovers won't have to be surreptitious anymore at Standing Rock Cemetery.
The public cemetery, operated by trustees on behalf of Kent and Franklin Township, Ohio, will allow burial of animal remains in a newly designated section of the cemetery. People may also be buried with the ashes of their pet in the area bordering the pet section.
"I don't think people loved their pets less 50 years ago, but they take it a little more serious these days," trustee John Sapp said. "With our society moving in that direction, we thought it would be quite popular."
It is rare to find a traditional cemetery that welcomes man's best friend. Of 10 randomly chosen cemeteries surveyed on the topic, none accepted pets.
"Although we have heard of cases where the ashes of a pet are put into a casket when a person is laid to rest, if we know beforehand, we can't allow it," said Tedi Kallis, manager of Crown Hill Cemetery in Twinsburg, Ohio. "If we knew it, we would have to have the pet removed. The caskets are sealed at the funeral home, and we don't ask what is in there."
Standing Rock has heard similar tales. Grounds crews have also reported finding empty containers that indicated someone had scattered pet ashes over a grave.
Some folks aren't content burying their pets in a backyard because if they move, the site becomes inaccessible, Sapp said.
"There was some demand for (a burial site) and quite frankly, we were looking at revenue," he said. "We're a business and we have to pay employees and buy equipment."
The concept is not without controversy.
Kent resident Carol Alumeyri, who has four generations of family at the cemetery as well as her own prepaid spot, wants the cemetery to remain exclusively for humans.
"To me, it's sacred ground. I think it's disrespectful to the people who are buried there," she said.
Alumeyri said she's fielded a lot of mean comments from people after voicing her opposition at recent trustees meeting, but she feels strongly about the sanctity of one's final resting place.
"It's fine to have pets and people love them and I understand, but there is a proper place to bury them and it's not there," she said. "I go to the cemetery every week. Standing Rock is a beautiful cemetery and they do a wonderful job of taking care of it. I just don't want to be buried in the same place" as animals.
Alumeyri said she is seeking advice from an attorney as to whether trustees acted properly in adopting the rule without a public hearing and paying for the pet section granite marker with public funds.
"We were never given a voice. Voters were never allowed to consider the matter," she said.
But barring legal action, the cemetery will be open to pets beginning this spring.
"We never expected there to be any controversy over this," Sapp said.
Sapp emphasized that the pet section is in the back of the cemetery and separate from the area where humans are buried, adding that the land there "wasn't too good for human burial."
The rest of the cemetery is big enough to support human burials for up to 150 years at the current rate, he said.
Jean Chrest, the cemetery's clerk-treasurer, said no one has called to inquire about a pet burial yet.
Missy Jordan of Hummel Pet Services confirmed that more people are getting dead pets cremated. The Copley Township, Ohio, business started in 2007 and has grown every year, to "well over 4,000 pets per year," she said.
"A lot of people say they will have their pet's cremated remains buried with them," Jordan said, but few inquire about separate burial service.
At Standing Rock, a pet gravesite can include up to two cremated remains and costs $250 for residents and $450 for others. Full-size lots for humans who want to be buried with their pet's remains are $450 for residents and $650 for others.
(c)2012 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)
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