New York is home to over 1 million pets and myriad services to care for them, including grooming, day care and over 150 off-leash dog parks — more than any other city in the country, according to the Trust for Public Land.
But while pet owners may be spoiled with choices to make life peachy for city pets, there is less clarity on what to do when the day comes for pet owners to say goodbye to their beloved animals — especially for those without the means to spend thousands of dollars.
If you’re lucky enough to own your property, you can legally bury your pet on your own land in New York. But in a city of renters, this is not always an option; New York has some of the lowest homeownership rates in the country.
The good news is that there are other options besides a private, at-home burial and some cost very little.
Free or Low Cost
Pet owners can take their animal to an Animal Care Centers of NYC location. From there, the center will take the pet and bring it to a mass crematorium based on Long Island. There are drop-off locations in every borough and you can find your closest center here.
“Every animal that comes into the center is treated with the utmost care and respect,” said Katy Hansen, communications director of Animal Care Centers of NYC (ACC).
Cremation costs around $50, but Hansen said the organization offers a sliding scale for those unable to pay.
For those who would like to dispose of their pet’s body free of charge, the city Department of Sanitation will collect the remains for free. All you need to do is place your pet in a heavy-duty black garbage bag and label it — for example “dead dog.” On trash collection day, the city will collect the pet and cremate it, but will not return the ashes. The service is only available for pets of residents, not for commercial enterprises. (Sorry, bodega cats.)
There are some instances in which pet owners should not dispose of a dead animal. If the animal has contracted rabies or has bitten or scratched someone, you should report the animal to the Department of Sanitation by calling 311.
If your pet unexpectedly dies at home, the ASPCA offers some guidance on how to store your pet safely before removing the body. The ASPCA recommends placing the body into a refrigerator or freezer, unless you plan on having an autopsy performed. If storing the pet in a freezer is not possible, there are other options that can be found here.
Losing a pet can be an emotional experience, and across the city there are a number of support groups for those who have recently lost a pet. ACC of NYC offers pet loss support groups and grief hotlines, which can be found on its website.
If you don’t feel comfortable with mass cremation, there are also several options for individual cremations services in the five boroughs. These are a little more costly, and prices vary significantly.
In fact, for Joseph Miguel, expensive prices are what motivated him to start up his business, Pet Cremation, based in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. After losing his golden retriever Bella in 2012, Miguel found few affordable options for individual cremation, so he set about starting up his company. Pet Cremation, which has branches across the city, will collect your pet and cremate the animal individually, including the option to return the ashes.
Prices are based on the weight of the animal but on average it costs somewhere between $350 to $400, he said. You can get in touch through a contact form on the website, or by phone at (929) 371-9015. Collection services are available 24/7.
Services for Saying Goodbye
While city services, ACC and Pet Cremation deal with deceased animals, many vets across the city offer the option of euthanasia for sick pets, and carry out cremation services too.
Elizabeth Bukharie, for example, chose to have her dog Houdini, who died last year, euthanized and cremated at the Schwarzman Animal Medical Center, the world’s largest nonprofit animal medical center, on East 62nd Street in Manhattan.
“We chose to have him cremated, and for them to take care of the ashes,” Bukharie said.
After he died, Houdini’s ashes were scattered at the Final Gift memorial site in Clifton, New Jersey. The whole service cost around $800, but Bukharie said the most valuable part of the process has been the support she was offered afterward.
The medical center had support group meetings every month for those who have lost pets. Bukharie said it has been incredibly helpful for her and her husband to speak with those who were going through a similar experience.
“We don’t have any children,” Bukharie said. “Houdini was like our child.”
As an alternative, there are also companies that provide at-home services where your pet can have their final moments in the home alongside you.
This is the route that Caley Clocksin chose to take after realizing it was time for her mixed-breed dog, Jack, to be put down. Clocksin chose an at-home euthanasia and cremation service through Paws At Peace, which offered a flat cost for euthanasia with communal cremation costing around $200 and private cremation for $350.
“It’s kind of weird having to make a financial decision at that time, but we opted to do the individual cremation,” she said.
“Having to deal with all these logistics in a very emotional time was tough. So I definitely wish I kind of looked into it sooner,” she added.
Nicole Greevy also opted for an at-home euthanization and cremation service for her family’s pit bull Ripley, named after the character in the Alien movie franchise. For Greevy, having Ripley’s final moments at home last fall was very important.
“In the city, having the opportunity for someone to come to you so that the animal can die in familiar surroundings, I thought was an incredible gift,” she said.
The vet from Pet Requiem, the service Greevy and her husband chose to use, came to Greevy’s home. Once Ripley had been euthanized by lethal injection, Pet Requiem gathered the dog into a bag and took her away for cremation. A few weeks later, the vet returned Ripley’s ashes in a little box, which Greevy said was more for her 12-year-old son than for her or her husband.
The whole process cost around $1,000, but she and her husband agreed they do not regret it at all.
“It’s one of the largest payments I’ve made all at once,” said Greevy. “I didn’t begrudge a single penny of it.”
There are also other options available if pet owners would prefer to bury their pets, you may just have to travel a bit further — and pay a hefty bill.
Regency Forest Pet Memorial Park, for example, has a pet cemetery on Long Island. A basic burial for a small pet would “begin at around $900,” said Carol Merrone, the cemetery’s coordinator. Prices vary depending on the size of the pet and casket choice.
“The casket would need to be much larger for a Great Dane than for a chihuahua,” Merrone said.
Burials are typically booked at least five days in advance at Regency Forest, and pet owners can get in touch through an online form.
Bideawee Memorial Park, which is also based on Long Island, has two locations, one in Wantagh and another in Westhampton. Prices begin in the low $2,000s and plots can typically hold up to one to two pets depending on casket size.
For city residents, Bidawee can organize transportation of remains to the memorial parks in Long Island for an extra fee, or pet owners can bring them to the parks directly or to a West 24th Street location in Manhattan.
North of the city in Westchester County, the historic Hartsdale Pet Cemetery has been around since 1896 and has been a family-operated business for the last 50 years, said vice president Edward Martin, whose father has been the burial ground’s director since 1974.
“Since the age of 14, I spent my high school summers working here,” Martin said.
For small pets, prices start at under $3,000, which includes a casket, plot, burial and general maintenance of the cemetery. Prices depend on the weight and size of the animal, as well as plot location.
The cemetery is home to 80,000 dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, guinea pigs, lizards, monkeys and even a lion cub, while over 800 humans are buried with their pets at the cemetery. It has even drawn in some celebrity customers, including Mariah Carey’s Jack Russell terrier who was buried there in 1997.
To schedule a burial at Hartsdale, you can contact the cemetery by phone or email. Details are available on its website.
For Strays and Wild Animals
Pets are not the only animals roaming the streets of New York — the city is also home to about half a million feral cats. Here’s what you can do if you find one who has died.
You can call 311 or fill out this form, which creates a 311 service request that is responded to on a priority basis and will be sent to the appropriate agency which will arrange pick up. Be sure to provide an exact location on the form. If you find a wild, stray or injured animal in the park, complete this separate form.
If you want to report a feral cat or other animal, you can make a report to the Animal Care Center (ACC) through 311 or you can bring the animal to an ACC drop-off center. You can find your nearest ACC location here. Most veterinary hospitals will scan animals for microchips so they can be returned to a possible owner.
However, if the cat looks healthy, the ACC cautions against bringing in the animal, which may be thriving in its environment. There is national data to suggest that when cats are removed from the area, more cats move in, according to the ACC. This is called the Vacuum Effect.
What else should New Yorkers know about saying goodbye to city pets? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “CITY PETS.”