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Published: Sunday July 27, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Sunday July 27, 2014 MYT 7:22:37 PM

Japan has laws to give deceased pets a proper send-off

Pets are important members of the family, and when they die, handling funeral arrangements becomes a crucial issue. 

The revised Law of Humane Treatment and Management of Animals that has come into force in Japan stipulates that owners should look after their pets until they die. When pets die, their remains have to be treated correctly and hygienically. Abandoning or burying them in parks, on riverbanks and other public spaces, or on someone else’s property, is regarded as illegal dumping in Japan.

When owners cannot take care of their pets, the environment offices of local governments will for a fee accept dogs, cats and other common pets. In Chuo Ward, Tokyo, for example, the local government will accept an animal that weighs no more than 25kg for a fee of ¥2,600 (RM81).

The concept that a pet is a member of the family has gained wide currency, and owners would hire a special agency to hold proper funerals for their pets. The idea is to console the soul of a deceased pet, as well as help owners accept its death and move on with their lives.

Pet owners seeking the services of a pet’s funeral service agency can choose between a “joint cremation” and an “individual cremation”. For a joint cremation, an agency cremates a number of animals and the bones are buried in a mass grave. The process is similar to that carried out by local governments. In individual cremations, the agency will return the pet’s ashes and bones.

When an owner wants to attend a funeral for a pet, the agency holds a service at a ceremony hall where the owner can say goodbye to the pet and pick up its ashes at the crematorium. An individual cremation ceremony costs more than a joint cremation ceremony, and varies depending on the choice of facility and the pet’s weight.

Dearly remembered: Family members saying goodbye to their beloved pet at a special facility in Japan. - Yomiuri Shimbun
Family members saying goodbye to their beloved pet at a special facility in Japan – Yomiuri Shimbun

Aeon Retail Co, which has an online site “Aeon’s Pet Funeral” that introduces pet cemeteries, says about 50% of its customers request joint cremations, followed by individual cremations not attended by owners (30% ). The other 20% attend individual funerals. The cost of holding a funeral is about ¥25,000 (RM780) on average.

Another option is to have a truck – equipped with an incinerator – make a trip to the pet owners’ house, or some place nearby, for the funeral.

How can a pet owner find the right agency? According to the Environment Ministry of Japan, 970 pet funeral agencies had registered their numbers in a telephone directory as of November 2010. However, the National Consumer Affairs Centre has received various complaints, such as the agency holding a funeral that differed from what was initially offered. 

Pet owners may still remember a controversial Japanese agency that illegally dumped a large number of dead pets on a mountain in Saitama Prefecture in 2010. The agency had initially been asked to cremate them. Other complaints concerned additional fees demanded if owners wished to be told where their pets were buried.

A number of websites list contacts for pet funeral agencies, and some of them set their own standards, with companies listed. Aeon’s Pet Funeral, for example, only introduces agencies and cemeteries that “cleared its 50 standards”. The standards include whether the agency has a stationary crematorium and a charnel house and whether the fee structure is clearly stipulated and easy to understand.

Anicom Pafe of Anicom Group, an insurance company for pets, has a search engine to find what it regards as reputable pet cemeteries, and criteria for selecting cemeteries. The website contains messages from pet owners who used these services. – Yomiuri Shimbun/Asia News Network

Tags / Keywords: Japan, pets, funeral, cremation

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