Some of the most touching funeral stories in the media are the ones about dogs who mourn their owners long after they’re gone. The beloved pet who sprawls in grief at the base of the coffin, who sits tirelessly by the burial site for weeks or even months after death occurs—these stories pull our heartstrings and make us believe in a deep human-pet bond that goes beyond the grave.
It seems only natural, then, that allowing pets at a funeral is an acceptable thing. After all, if these creatures feel some kind of grief—if they understand, on some level, what loss means—then why shouldn’t they be invited to participate in the ritual of saying goodbye?
Pets at Funerals
Bringing a pet to a funeral is not something you should do without first talking to the family and/or the funeral home or church where the service is being held. It’s one thing for the deceased’s own pet to be brought in to say goodbye; it is another for guests to bring their own companions to share in their grief. Because all animals react differently to social situations—and because every funeral home will have different policies regarding animals in attendance—here are a few guidelines for bringing pets to funerals.
- Is it a Service Animal? Exceptions are likely to be made for service animals, so be sure and let the family/funeral home know if you will need to bring yours along for the funeral.
- Will You Have an Alternate Need of the Animal? If you or a loved one is overwhelmed by your loss, a pet can provide great emotional comfort. Pets can also provide comfort to guests in attendance at a funeral (especially children). If you believe your pet may be needed for emotional support, talk to the family and see if you can bring him or her along for that purpose.
- What is the Pet Policy at the Cemetery? Even if a funeral home allows you to bring a pet, the cemetery may have different restrictions (they often do, as they need to ensure owners clean up after their pets to keep the area clean). Check with both places before you bring a pet.
- Is There No Other Option? Are you driving to the funeral from afar and can’t leave your pet at home? Is it a hot day and leaving the dog in the car will be a danger? You may find yourself in a situation where bringing a pet is unavoidable—and most people would rather your pet be safe.
If you do bring a pet to a funeral, be considerate of the other guests. Some may have allergies or fears of pets, and it’s your job to bring as little attention to your animal as possible. Sit near the back. Be prepared to leave quickly if your pet becomes disruptive. Always have the animal on a leash and/or muzzle. Clean up any accidents that occur. And know that although your pet may be welcome, funerals exist for human mourners first and foremost, and their needs should always come before your animal’s.