Legislation would allow pets, humans at same crematory

May 31, 2011
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Craig Road Pet Cemetery is a virtual walk of fame for the beloved pets of celebrated Las Vegans. The pets of Liberace, Snoop Dogg, Robert Goulet, Redd Foxx and even an elephant from Circus Circus – not cremated but buried whole – rest in peace here.

The remains of 6,766 animals have been brought to the cemetery over the past 40 years.

But its owners fear a bill sailing through the Legislature threatens not only the homespun business, but will sap dignity from both animals and people by opening the door for pets to be cremated at human crematories.

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The reason: Current law states that only certified pet cemeteries can cremate animals. The new law would no longer restrict animal cremations to pet cemeteries, if local governments want it that way.

“The two things we fear most is that businesses will start popping up in town to make a quick buck, or people will do these in their own backyards,” said Kym Fiegl, an owner of Craig Road Pet Cemetery.

Even if the new law contains a provision to prevent that practice, Fiegl notes there’s no oversight or enforcement, which is why pet cremations already occur in uncertified businesses.

He also suggests that disreputable people would pretend to get into the pet cremation business but instead will just dump the bodies in the desert.

“This is money legislation,” said Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins, who has served in the Assembly. The Craig Road cemetery is in his commission district. “It’s all about the poor economy. Lobbyists get paid a bunch to push it, then every funeral home can burn animals. It’s money. That’s the name of this game.”

Lobbyist Warren Hardy, who represents LaPaloma Funeral Services, disagrees.

He says the proposed law merely makes legal the 14 businesses that he claims are cremating pets illegally because there is little enforcement of the law.

He contends Craig Road Pet Cemetery is illegal because it operates on 4.82 acres, even though state law demands 5 acres for pet cemetery/crematories.

(The new law would reduce lot size requirements to 2.5 acres per business.)

Hardy said the bill was amended to eliminate the possibility of backyard incinerations and that the law’s intent is to level the playing field by eliminating the demand that only registered pet cemeteries are able to cremate animals.

In addition, he pointed out, the proposed law enables only local government to allow more businesses to cremate pets, but doesn’t force them to adopt it.

State senators passed the bill unanimously March 31. The Assembly Health and Human Services Committee passed an amended version May 20. If it gains approval by the full Assembly, it would become law with the governor’s signature.

During a mid-March Senate hearing on the bill, representatives from the Nevada Humane Society, Nevada’s People for Animal Welfare and A Beloved Friends Pet Crematory of Northern Nevada testified in support of the bill.

Tony Yarbrough, an unpaid lobbyist for Nevada’s People for Animal Welfare, said people he represents weren’t worried about denying the dead their dignity, because places like LaPaloma have separate incinerators for people and animals.

“They’ve maintained the dignity of the human spirit,” he added.

Maybe so, but Dennis Mastny, an owner of Craig Road Pet Cemetery, worries about the temptation to use a human incinerator when a business is dealing with a backlog of pet corpses.

“I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to take grandma to a place and wonder if she’s being cremated in the same place as Fluffy,” he said.

Collins talked with disdain at the idea of being “burned up” in an oven “where there’d be cat hairs and claws. Just think if you spent your whole life allergic to cats.”

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