When Linda Mickel's 19-year-old cat, Zipper, died, Linda was unprepared for the range of decisions she needed to make. Caught in the emotion of the moment and flanked by two sobbing daughters, she opted for a private cremation and a porcelain paw-print memorial without giving much thought to costs or alternatives.
Services and fees
According to Michael O'Sullivan, executive director of the Humane Society of Canada, fees for services vary widely across Canada and you should ask about the costs of cremation and burial as you would with any other consumer decision. Start by calling the local humane society or by talking to your veterinarian about alternatives.
Whether you choose burial or cremation, consider your needs and those of your family. Do you want a burial site to visit? Is there a special dog run you may want to scatter your pet's ashes over?
If you choose cremation, you'll have the option of a private or general one. Although some humane societies and clinics have onsite crematoriums, many refer the actual cremation to private crematoriums.
A general cremation means your pet will be cremated with other deceased pets and you won't be able to keep your pet's remains. With a private cremation, your pet's ashes will be returned to you, often in a cremation container of your choice. You may choose to have a special item -- a blanket or a favourite toy -- cremated with your pet.
General cremations cost less than private cremations, which vary in price, depending on the weight of the pet and the type of urn selected. Many people opt for a small memorial paw print -- sometimes included in the overall charge -- of their pet. Ask to have these, and all, costs outlined for you.
Many cities have pet cemeteries listed in the phone book, but if you decide to bury your pet in your back yard, the Humane Society of Canada recommends you dig down to a depth of four feet to avoid the possibility of another animal digging up the grave. Municipal bylaws vary, so call your local humane society to learn about bylaws specific to your city.
Often, the burial or cremation of the family pet is just the beginning of the grieving process. Check with the humane society or the phone book to see if your city has a pet-loss society to help your family cope with the death of a pet. The Humane Society of Canada also offers a website memorial at no charge. Pet owners can send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, with a picture of their pet, along with a written memorial.