Bill would allow Virginians to be buried next to their pets

Posted at 7:00 PM, Feb 25, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-25 19:00:06-05

RICHMOND, VA (WTVR) -- People can only be buried next to humans in the Commonwealth of Virginia, but that could soon change if State Delegate Israel O'Quinn's (R-Bristol) bill becomes law.

It is expected to be heard in a State Senate Committee this week after already passing the House of Delegates 98-1.

The bill would allow Virginia cemeteries to decide for themselves on whether or not to offer the service. Under the proposal, if a cemetery elects to go forward with human/pet burials they must build an entirely separate section where only people supporting the service would be buried.

"This section of the cemetery would have to be completely separate than other parts of the cemetery and would have be advertised as such," O'Quinn said.

A board member with the Virginia Cemetery Association said they have no "objections" to the bill.

In fact, some cemeteries told CBS 6 News that they believe it could increase business after years of declining revenues thanks to cremation popularity.

Alex Oplinger, a Richmond dog owner, said he loves the idea.

"I could totally see myself being buried next to my little guy," Oplinger said.

Oplinger told CBS 6 reporter Joe St. George that his late grandma would of love the idea.

"We may have sneaked in my grandma's dog's ashes into her coffin," Oplinger said.

Dr. Sandra Barker, a psychologist at VCU who specializes in pet loss grief counseling, says she is surprised it has taken this long for this type of legislation to be debated.

"I am surprised it has taken this long to come up. We know from early studies people are as close to pets as they are to human family members in many cases," Barker said.