published Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Pet burials range from bottom of sea to sky above

A grave marker for Buddy a beloved family pet memorialized at the Los Angeles Pet Cemetery in Calabasas, Calif. Saying goodbye to a beloved dog or cat is hard. Despite many options, an estimated 70 percent of owners will leave the body with their veterinarian to dispose of.
A grave marker for Buddy a beloved family pet memorialized at the Los Angeles Pet Cemetery in Calabasas, Calif. Saying goodbye to a beloved dog or cat is hard. Despite many options, an estimated 70 percent of owners will leave the body with their veterinarian to dispose of.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

LOS ANGELES — More pets are buried in U.S. backyards than any other place, but that is becoming illegal in more and more places. For those who want something unique, though, the sky's the limit, literally.

From companies that will send your pet's remains to the heavens to those who will help scatter them at sea — or turn them into a man-made gemstone for your favorite broach — there's a vast array of options. Here are some of them:

AQUAMATION

This method is similar to cremation, but it's done with water-based technology that leaves pure ash reminiscent of powdery beach sand, said Jerry Shevick, CEO of Peaceful Pets Aquamation Inc. in Newbury Park. The process is called alkaline hydrolysis. It is legal for humans in seven states and legal for pets in every state. But in New York, it can be performed only by a veterinarian. The nearly green, 20-minute process ranges from $75 to $350 depending on size.

LIFE GEM DIAMONDS

LifeGem is a 13-year-old company in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, that turns strands of hair or remains of a pet (or person) into a colorless, blue, red, yellow or green synthetic diamond that costs from $1,999 to $24,999.

BALLOON LIFT

The Eternal Ascent Society in Newport Richey, Florida, will send your pet's remains to the heavens, said Joanie West, who has owned the company for 16 years. She puts remains (pet or person) in a 5-foot round balloon, adds helium and releases it at a tree- and wire-free location the family chooses. The balloons come in red, yellow, green and blue. Families usually choose a service with music, gifts and remembrances. They can let the balloons go. Around 5 miles up at 40 degrees, the balloon fractures and the ashes are caught in high winds and scattered. Balloons start at $399. There are added costs for larger balloons, a videotape or special container.

BURIAL AT SEA

Ashes on the Sea, which serves California and Hawaii, will scatter a pet's ashes at sea for $250 to $350, said Capt. Ken Shortridge. Families can watch from boat or shore, and there are several ceremonies to choose from. Ashes can be placed in a wicker basket lined with tea leaves, covered with rose petals and set on the water. When flipped, the ashes form the illusion of an underwater wreath, and you can watch them drift toward the bottom of the sea.

BACKYARD

More pets are buried in backyards than anywhere else. It's free, 100 percent green, you can visit anytime, and goodbyes can be as simple or as fancy as mourners want. But it is illegal in many places. Los Angeles, for example, bans the burial of any animal or fowl except in an established cemetery.

PET CEMETERY

Includes a plot of ground or mausoleum space. You can buy a headstone or plaque. Cemetery burial can cost several hundred to several thousand dollars depending on size, location, grave marker, type of casket or cremation, urn and other costs.

CREMATION

Costs vary depending on location, pet size and extras. The Caring Pet Crematory in Sacramento charges $140 for a pet under 20 pounds and $275 for a pet from 151 to 200 pounds. If the family wants to watch the cremation, it costs $50, but not every crematory allows witnesses, crematory operator Alex Gordon said. Caring Pet normally scatters remains in the forest. For $125, the company also will scatter remains off the coast of San Francisco by plane. Urns also vary in cost.

VETERINARIANS

Bonnie Beaver, a professor at Texas A&M University's College of Veterinary Medicine and executive director of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, says most pet owners -- an estimated 70 percent -- will go the routine route, leaving the body with their veterinarian. The vet usually uses communal cremation.

Beaver says taking a pet's body home for burial is the next most popular method for owners, followed by cremation.

One other pet ends up in a watery grave sometimes -- all those goldfish and guppies that are pushed toward their resting place with a flush.

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