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Pet funerals on the rise as owners say farewell

China Daily | Updated: 2019-04-19 09:03

A staff member from a pet funeral company grooms a deceased pet dog inside a memorial hall at Minhang district in Shanghai on August 29, 2015. [Photo/China.com]

HEFEI-On a table in the mourning room, pet undertaker Yang Siwei carefully wiped blood off the body of Dumbo, a 9-year-old poodle, as the dog's owner, Chen Tingting, stood beside the table to bid farewell to her deceased furry friend, which had been hit by a car two days before.

Yang helps pet owners like Chen in Anhui province prepare funerals for their beloved pets, and has cremated hundreds of animals in the past three years.

Pet funeral services are picking up steam in China, as millions of animal lovers seek ways to bring closure to their relationships with their former companions.

According to a report on China's pet industry, the number of pet owners in Chinese cities has reached 73.5 million, with 53.9 percent willing to pay for a pet funeral service.

"We've been living together for nine years, and it is already a family member," Chan said tearfully of her poodle. After the cremation and funeral, Chan bought an urn to take Dumbo's ashes home.

Outside the mourning room is a forest where around 30 pets are buried. Each is put under a tree with a wooden fence and flowers around it, and a tablet with its owner's thoughts. There are even several tombstones set up in the cemetery with photos of pets on them.

"Most owners take the ashes home, though some choose to bury them here," Yang said.

Yang got into the business after her cat died of a disease four years ago. Knowing that burying its body might bring health risks to other pets and pollute the environment, she decided to cremate her feline friend.

"But I couldn't find a single cremation agency in Anhui," Yang said. After many trips, she eventually found one in neighboring Jiangsu province and had a funeral for the cat.

In 2016, when Yang first became a pet undertaker, she cremated about two or three pets each month, but now it's a dozen or more.

Yang said that despite the availability of funeral services in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, the pet funeral service market is still in its early stages in most parts of the country.

Experts say more assessments and discussions are needed to determine how foreign practices in the pet funeral industry can fit China, such as setting up land designated for burying pets.

"We are still taking baby steps," Yang said. "But I am glad to see more people paying attention to the sector."


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