Chicago pet owners don’t have to go to the suburbs anymore to cremate their companions

The city council voted today to allow a North Side cemetery to perform pet cremations

February 13, 2013

Judith Ruiz-Branch

Until yesterday, Chicago pet owners who wanted to keep the ashes of their beloved kitty couldn’t do it legally.

But the City Council voted today to change that and make it easier for pet owners to memorialize their companions.

Ald. Margaret Laurino (39th Ward) sponsored the bill that will now make pet cremation legal, starting at one North Side cemetery.

“You know people consider their pets to be almost part of their family,” Laurino said. “So you can now have Muffy over here, and Grandpa next to him.”

The Bohemian National Cemetery brought the issue to Alderman Laurino’s attention.

“A lot of our regular customers were wondering about having their pets buried with them," said Philip Roux, the cemetery’s superintendent.

Roux said pet’s ashes can be buried on top of existing graves, like their pet owners, for example.

David Remkus is the vice president at the Hinsdale Pet Cemetery in the West suburbs.

He said they got a lot of business from Chicago residents due to the cremation restriction.

“People have really embraced it over the past twenty to thirty years and have had it for their human family members,” Remkus said. “So there’s really a demand for it in the pet end.”

Remkus said he’s not really worried about the new competition in the city.

He just wants rules for cemeteries that serve both humans and pets, like Bohemian National Cemetery, to be strictly enforced.

“Pet cremation in general is totally unregulated,” Rekus said. “There’s laws on the books, but there’s no enforcement whatsoever.”

Rekus said the same equipment is used to cremate humans and pets so it makes it easy for companies who service both to use one unit for humans and pets.

“They could do it and get away with it and no one would be any the wiser,” Remkus said. “I’m not saying that that company would do that, but there’s definitely potential there for that to happen.” 

But Roux said that’s not going to happen.

“I mean we just don’t say yeah, we’re opening it and let it go at that,” Roux said.

The new ordinance is limited to “companion animals” since the city still prohibits the cremation of wild animals.