This blog has been written by Sandra Arsenault, Law Clerk at Fasken LLP
With more people working from home and less activities available for children, it is no surprise that there has been a COVID pet boom as many families have added a new member to their household during the last two years. These four-legged creatures have brightened our spirits, made these hard times less lonely, and enriched the lives of adults and children alike. My family is no exception.
Unfortunately, along with all of the wonderful benefits of COVID pets comes inevitable loss.
Yesterday morning we lost a special member of our family. We woke up and our little BFF (best furry friend) had died in her sleep. As an Estates professional, one would assume I might be well equipped to deal with such a situation. I wasn’t. Death of any kind is one of those things you simply cannot prepare yourself for. This was the first time my kids (ages 5 and 10) experienced such a loss. As they sobbed and tried to understand what was happening, they asked many questions that I didn’t necessarily know the best answers to.
I realized that I might not have all of the answers on where our precious pet goes next or why we can’t get her back or if we will ever see her again. But after fifteen years of working in estates, I do know how important it is to be kind, patient and caring while both adults and children are experiencing this terrible loss. Whether it is a human or animal loss, losing someone you love is one of the most difficult things we have to experience. It is important to be there to listen to them, allow them to express their emotions, and hold a space for them. To let them know it is okay to grieve and feel sad. That it is okay to remember good times while still acknowledging that pain and loss. That their feelings are natural, valid and difficult. It is helpful for them to be surrounded by others who care and to not be alone or suffer in silence.
Of course, there is then the practical questions, the kind I usually deal with and yet again, I didn’t have all the answers. What do you do when your pet dies at home? If my pet had a Will, I could probate it. But I don’t have a manual on how to deal with my pet’s untimely demise.
According to the City of Toronto website, there are no bylaws that would prohibit the burial of personal pets on private property, but since it is February, the ground is completely frozen. Also, what if you don’t have a backyard. What are the alternatives?
It turns out, there are a number of options for dealing with these kind of situations.
In Toronto, the most economical option appears to be the surrendering of your deceased pet to Animal Services. A call to 311 provides all the information required including the cost and how to make an appointment to drop off the body. For a small pet such as ours, the cost would be $40 for this service. There is no pick up service available.
The veterinarian’s office indicated they could do a basic cremation without the return of ashes for a cost of over $70 or a private cremation with ashes returned to us in an included urn for a significantly higher cost of approximately $285.
I should not have been surprised to discover the availability of Pet Funeral Services. Places such as Pets at Peace and Pet Cremations by Turner & Porter offer a range of services including home pick up, private family goodbyes, family witnessed private cremation and pet memorial gatherings. The urn styles vary widely and can be engraved. Other keepsake items are available for purchase such as fur clippings and clay paw prints.
And when cost isn’t a factor, Thistledown Pet Memorial apparently offers the ultimate after-care personal service for your BFF. This pet funeral home offers fully customized experiences with options for transportation, full funeral service with minister, bulletin, refreshment options, video-taping, music, onsite pet crematorium and pet caskets. For your pet’s final resting place, their location in Uxbridge has indoor or outdoor niche wall urn placements, a formal urn burial garden, woodland urn burials and scattering gardens. No prices are listed on their website.
Like an executor of an estate, we are somewhat overwhelmed by the many options and the associated costs in sending off our furry friend.
Whichever way we choose to honour and say goodbye to our BFF, one thing is certain. I know our pet was deeply loved and will hold a special place in our hearts forever. RIP Millie.