Pet owners now have a new option for laying their dead pets to rest.

Greenlawn Funeral Homes Southwest opened a pet cemetery last week where people can place their cremated pets, as well as small non-cremated household pets such as birds and turtles. This is the only pet cemetery currently in Bakersfield.

“Our pets are a part of our families, and there’s not really many options out there for burial,” said Greenlawn President Jim La Mar. “To be able to fill that need makes me feel really good.”

While La Mar said he understands a lot of owners opt to bury their pets in their backyards, he feels having a cemetery plot is a better way to honor them.

“It’s better than out of sight, out of mind, and what if you have to move?” he said. “When you place their remains in a cemetery and you have a headstone, it helps keep the memory alive. It feels like you’re still with them.”

La Mar said he’s been considering a pet cemetery for the past few years, as many people have expressed interest in having plots for their pets. La Mar felt Greenlawn’s southwest location would be the best fit, as there is plenty of land and it’s not dedicated to solely human remains, like some of the other locations.

After months of talks with the city, Greenlawn was finally given the go-ahead earlier this year to move forward with creating a pet cemetery. The cemetery, located on the eastern side of the grounds, can accommodate up to 2,400 pets, La Mar said.

The cemetery already has one filled plot. La Mar decided to bury the remains of his border collie, K.C., who died in 2012. Up until last week, he had kept her remains in an urn at his residence.

“She was awesome,” he said. “She was kind and sweet. We would go out every night for walks. It feels great to be able to go out and see her name here.”

As of last week, La Mar said they haven’t had anyone purchase a plot yet, but he expects that to change as word gets out about the new option. As the new pet cemetery doesn’t have a name yet, La Mar said Greenlawn is accepting suggestions from the community.

In addition to the cemetery, La Mar said Greenlawn Southwest is now also offering small graveside services for pets that will cost around $200.

“When you lose a loved one, you want to give them a dignified service and send-off. Why should that be any different with our pets?” he said. “Pet loss is serious, and this can help families with the loss process.”

As for the plots, La Mar said the price has been set at $550. This includes the plot itself, a headstone with engraving, a vase for flowers and a protective container. Besides very small pets, only cremated household pets are permitted to be buried at the cemetery.

“We think it’s a great idea,” said Chuck Nordstrom, assistant executive director of the Bakersfield SPCA. “There are many pet owners who can’t or don’t want to put their pets in their own yard. To have the option of an actual pet cemetery is wonderful.”

Nordstrom said he’s confident that many people will take advantage of the new cemetery.

“It’s a place where they can go visit, know that they’re at peace and show all due respect,” he said.

Joseph Luiz can be reached at 395-7368 or by email at jluiz@bakersfield.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @JLuiz_TBC. 

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