Adapting Your Cemetery's Regulations To Accommodate The New Pet Burial Law

On September 26, 2016, Governor Cuomo signed a bill to allow the interment of cremated pet remains alongside human remains. Last week, the New York State Division of Cemeteries ("DoC") issued guidance to help cemeteries understand the law's requirements. Cemeteries that do not wish to handle cremated pet remains are encouraged to explicitly include this restriction in their regulations. In addition, the new law does not apply to religious cemeteries.

Cemeteries planning to handle cremated pet remains must be aware of what constitutes acceptable remains, how such remains may be handled, and the associated documentation requirements. The law limits "pet cremated remains" to ashes of a "domestic animal... adapted or tamed to live in intimate association with people" that was cremated "at a pet crematorium."  However, it falls to the cemetery to verify that any remains it accepts meet these criteria. Other examples of required documentation include: (1) proof of the sale of the burial rights and prices charged; (2) the name and signature of the person authorizing the interment; (3) the pet's name and type; (4) the date and location of the interment; and (5) whether the container for the pet's cremated remains was placed in the casket or buried separately. With respect to price, it should also be noted that the full interment charge must be deposited in the cemetery's permanent maintenance fund, and that such prices are subject to DoC approval.

Cemeteries must also be conscious of how and where they bury cremated pet remains. The law only authorizes the interment of such remains in a "grave, crypt, or niche" that "contains or will contain human remains."  When cremated pet remains are interred, they should be kept in their own urn and not commingled with human remains.  For ground burials, the remains should be placed inside or near the casket. Finally, a cemetery cannot have a section devoted only to interring or memorializing pet remains.  However, it may limit the burial of pets to specific areas within the cemetery. These limits should be set forth in the cemetery's regulations. Cemeteries should also consider regulations on: (1) whether the policy for burying pet remains applies only to new graves or retroactively; (2) the maximum number of human and pet remains allowed per lot; (3) who may authorize interment of pet remains where there are multiple lot owners; and (4) disinterment procedures specific to pet remains. 

In addition to guidance from DoC, the New York State Association of Cemeteries has prepared model regulations for issues related to cremated pet remains.  These sample regulations will be included in a subsequent post

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