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NYC finds final rest for furry friends

A gravestone for "Boots" at the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Hartsdale, NY.

TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: Without a backyard, what happens to the deceased pets of apartment dwellers? In New York City, there's a market for it, as Steven Thrasher from The Village Voice reports.


Steven Thrasher: Losing a pet is never easy, but it's especially tricky when you live in a New York City apartment. What do you do when your pet dies?

Try calling 311, New York's information line, and you'll get this advice:

New York City 311 Operator: Basically, you can just dispose of the animal in a plastic bag, and on your garbage collection day you can place it out, and you can have the bag saying "dead dog."

Still, no surprise, most pet owners won't dispose of their dog or their cat with the trash. And more Americans are choosing to not have their veteranarian anonymously dispose of the remains.

About 10,000 pets are cremated and returned to their owners each year at the Pet Cremation Agency on Long Island. Owner James Aracria says pet cremation is not just for urbanites without yards anymore.

James Aracria: Years ago it used to be, "Hey Junior, dig a hole in the backyard and bury the pet." Haha. You know, it doesn't happen that way now. Pets have become so much more a part of families. The death aspect has become an industry.

So successful an industry, that his crematory is increasingly acting as a contractor for human funeral homes that now host services for pets.

Aracria: Funeral homes are trying to see if they can find a foothold inside the pet cremation business.

Walk into a pet funeral home and you'll find a suspiciously tiny altar and little urns adorned with halo-wearing puppies and kittens. But for funeral homes, pet cremation is a loss leader; they only get a couple hundred dollars per pet in most cases. They realize if they do a good job you when Fido dies, you might just throw your business their way when a loved one passes away.

Another option for city dwellers is an actual pet cemetery, like the one in Hartsdale that has been around for over a century. A professional pet burial will cost you at least $1,500. But according to overseer Ed Martin, many pet owners are more than willing to pay for peace of mind.

Aracria: They want a place that is permanent and forever, and that's why they come here.

Pointing to a headstone, Martin says all kinds of people bury their pets, some of whom likely have a backyard.

Aracria: Love M." M is for Mariah Carey. This is her plot here, and Clarence was her pet cat.

It might seem like a lot to put up a granite headstone for your pet when much cheaper options are available. But look just up the hill and you'll see a 10 foot tall, 50-ton mausoleum, constructed for a half dozen pets from just one family.

In New York, I'm Steven Thrasher for Marketplace.

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