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Many Funeral Homes Now Offering Services For Pet Owners

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- More funeral homes and cemeteries in our area are now offering services catering to animal lovers and their pets.

It's now possible to hold visitation for your deceased dog or cat. You can also be buried next to your faithful companion.

Patty Jenkins of Murrysville became one of a growing number of pet owners taking advantage of what's being offered by this growing industry.

When her dog Waffles, a Maltese, suddenly died, she called Jefferson Memorial Cemetery in Pleasant Hills.

"They were very kind and compassionate, and I just knew that's where the dog had to be," said Jenkins.

Inside The Faithful Friends Room at Jefferson Memorial, pet owners can see all the options available, from pet caskets to bronze grave markers.

Dagny Neel Fitzpatrick from Jefferson Memorial explained that's also the room used for visitation for families who want a little time to say goodbye.

"We lay them out in their casket," said Neel Fitzpatrick. "We allow the family to spend however as much time they need. Often it might be 10, 15, 20 minutes."

For Jenkins, her family decided to stay home, but she wanted some final time with the dog that was so loyal.

"Just me and my best friend went to view Waffles," said Jenkins. "I needed that for closure."

Waffles was buried in Jefferson's Faithful Friends Garden. There are dogs and cats, even a rabbit buried there. People can choose to be buried next to their pets or in a mausoleum they just built.

Neel Fitzpatrick says they added the services because the community asked for it.

"There were a lot of people who said, "Hey, my beloved animal is just as close to me. They're my best friend. They're my family member. Where can I go?'" Neel Fitzpatrick said.

Miles in away in Hermitage, Mercer County, Tom Flynn is accompanied by his dog Solomon almost everywhere he goes.

Flynn is sort of a pioneer in this field. He started the Hillcrest-Flynn Pet Funeral Home eight years ago.

"We treat it absolutely like a human funeral home," said Flynn. "If the family wishes, they can actually have a wake."

They have two viewing rooms, one with a window.

"They can actually stand here and watch the placement of the animal into the crematory," said Flynn.

Humans can also be buried in the cemetery next their pet.

His business has grown fast. They handled 700 pets last year, but Flynn says some funeral homes are reluctant to get involved in this growing part of the industry.

"They go back four or fifth generation funeral directors, 'Grandpa never buried a dog.' Well, get up with the program now pal. It's a whole different world now," said Flynn.

At Flynn's funeral home, they'll even have someone to be with an owner when a pet is being euthanized, so that person isn't alone.

Prices vary widely for both human and pet funerals, but on average a human funeral in our area can cost $7,000 to $8,000. A pet funeral may cost closer to $700.

Jenkins says the folks at Jefferson Memorial made a difficult time a little easier when she lost Waffles.

"You love them when they're alive, and when they die, you shouldn't love them any less," said Jenkins.

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