New York allows human burials at pet cemeteries

By JENNIFER BARRIOS/NEWSDAY

Anne Albert plans to spend eternity in the Peaceful Valley section of the Middle Island, N.Y., cemetery she’s chosen, next to her husband, their four dogs, four cats, two horses and a rabbit named Cutie.

New rules to be issued in the spring by the New York State Division of Cemeteries will allow Albert to pursue her wish — to have her cremated remains buried in Regency Forest Pet Memorial Cemetery.

“I always … wanted animals over children,” said Albert, 46, a Holbrook, N.Y., native who lives with her husband, Phillip, and their pets in upstate Freehold, N.Y. “I want to be buried with my children, and they’re my furry children.”

The change in rules comes several months after the state issued letters to all pet cemeteries in New York, saying that they were not allowed to provide burial services for human remains.

The state has since decided that cremated human remains can be buried at pet cemeteries as long as the sites don’t advertise or charge for the practice. Customers must be told that pet cemeteries don’t have the same state protections that human resting places do, such as mandatory records of burials and restrictions on removals of remains.

After publication in the State Register, the state is taking public comments on the proposed rules for 90 days, then will issue the final rules.

“Obviously, there is a desire for this on the part of some folks,” said Daniel Shapiro, chairman of the New York State Cemetery Board. “They’re very passionate about it. And this provides a blueprint for pet cemeteries to allow it to occur without fear of adverse consequences from their regulator.”

Albert said she’s grateful that nothing will likely get in the way of her final wishes.

The elaborate gravestone that she’s picked out at Regency Forest displays the couple’s wedding photo, along with photos and short devotionals about each of their pets. She’s also put her wishes in her will.

Albert established the grave at what formerly was the Long Island Pet Cemetery after her German Shepherd, Freckles, died in 1989 — a year before authorities found that the cemetery’s owners had left thousands of pets unburied in a communal pit and tossed other remains into mass cremations.

Leonard Tarzia, who with two partners purchased the cemetery after the scandal, said he often gets queries from grieving pet owners.

“We get people who ask us all the time, ‘Can I be buried with my animal?'” Tarzia said. “Does it surprise me? No. People love their pets and they’re just part of the family. To people who have pets buried here, it’s no different than mom or dad or brother or sister.”