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New Yorkers May Now Be Buried With Pets, Legally

How much time do you spend with your pets? Do you think you could spend any more?

For those who live in the state of New York, a recent law is allowing pet owners to spend a literal eternity with their believed companions, as the state now permits humans and their pets to be buried alongside each other. Signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, the bill allows for a pet’s ashes to be included in the coffins of interred New Yorkers, although cemeteries with religious affiliation are permitted to ignore the law if it conflicts with their beliefs.

“This legislation will roll back unnecessary regulation and give cemeteries the option to honor the last wishes of pet lovers across New York,” Cuomo said.

The Hartsdale Pet Cemetery is New York's oldest designated animal interment area.

The Hartsdale Pet Cemetery is New York’s oldest designated animal interment area.

This law clarifies an issue faced in 2011, when the New York Division of Cemeteries banned, and shortly after un-banned, New York residents from being buried with their pet’s ashes in designated pet cemeteries. In Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Westchester County, New York, more than 500 plots are dedicated to both pet and owner. If there’s one thing New Yorkers aren’t budging on, it’s their right to be with their animals at every stage of life and death. Now, if an animal dies first, the ashes can be held and interred later with the owner. If the owner passes away before their pet, the pet’s ashes can be added later, too.

It’s not that animals haven’t made their way into the state’s cemeteries in the past — as reported in the New York Times, there is a noted Civil War horse, several dogs, and other animals described on elegant headstones in the city — but now, the practice is legal.

Elsewhere in New England, Massachusetts may soon follow suit with its own pet burial law. According to the Boston Herald, a bill before the Joint Committee on Public Health would allow for specialized co-internment areas to be designated in the state’s 5,000 municipal, privately owned and religious cemeteries.

Over 500 humans have been buried next to their pets in the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery.

Over 500 humans have been buried next to their pets in the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery.

In Virginia, humans and their pets can be buried side by side, although not in the same space, as permitted by a 2014 law. In a story for NPR that same year, Beverly Amsler interviewed a couple who moved from Ohio to Virginia to spend the rest of their lives, and afterlives, with their 11 dogs.

“For my wife and I — our dogs, they’re our family,” Tom Rakoczy told Amsler. “Loved ones could come with two legs or four legs. And our dogs, for the last 40 years of our marriage, have been our family. We have no human children.”

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Pennsylvania and Florida also detail pet and human burial practices in their state constitutions.

As more and more states choose whether to let humans spend everafter with their loving companions, irrelevant of species, American military veterans are fighting for the chance of companionship and therapy only a service dog can provide.

The VA’s U.S. Veteran Service Dog Program covers the cost of service dogs only in cases of physical disability. Dogs for mobility, hearing, or sight are covered, but psychiatric issues like PTSD are not. The VA claims that there is not enough evidence to show that the dogs were efficacious despite countless studies to the contrary. Follow this link to tell the VA to change the U.S. Veteran Service Dog Program to cover service dogs for any troop that needs one!

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Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and world traveler with a background in journalism, graphic design, and French pastry. He likes to learn new things whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, folk music and coffee.