Bill to Allow Pet Cemeteries to Restore Fee to Bury Human Ashes
By Molly Stazzone
A local assemblyman has proposed a bill that will allow pet cemeteries to once again charge a nominal fee to bury the ashes of people who have been cremated next to the remains of their pets.
Earlier this year Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti (D-Pleasantville) introduced measure A1593 that would amend the state’s General Business Law, which oversees pet cemeteries and crematoriums, and permit the facilities to restore the $200 charge.
The state Cemetery Board, which regulates nonprofit cemetery corporations, had objected to the nearly century-old practice in 2011. The Department of State then added a regulation that prohibits pet cemeteries from charging. The Abinanti-proposed legislation points out that neither the state nor the Cemetery Board has the authority to regulate where human ashes can be placed, although there are laws governing human remains.
“Pet cemeteries charged $200 for the service,” Abinanti said. “Then the secretary of state created a new regulation that stated cemeteries couldn’t have human ashes and pet ashes together.”
After the secretary of state’s office was bombarded with complaints, a compromise was reached to allow for human ashes to be buried at pet cemeteries, but the cemeteries would be unable to charge and were prohibited from advertising the service.
Abinanti said he believes the sudden action by the state was to protect cemeteries for humans from losing business to pet cemeteries, fearing the latter would be a cheaper option.
Affected by the state’s action was the oldest pet cemetery in America, Hartsdale Pet Cemetery, which is in Abinanti’s district. Hartsdale Pet Cemetery was established in 1896 and has more than 80,000 pet gravestones. There are about five to 10 requests for human ashes to be placed next to pet remains each year, said cemetery Vice President Ed Martin III.
Martin said his father was told to stop the practice two years ago.
“We both were honored to do these services, and the Division of Cemeteries gave us the go-ahead,” he said. “We started to charge people $200 for each service. But then shortly afterward (we were told) to stop. My father was confused and stopped the services.”
Adam has worked in the local news industry for the past two decades in Westchester County and the broader Hudson Valley. Read more from Adam’s author bio here.