SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Across the country, there are cemeteries for people, and there are cemeteries for pets. But in the past few years, some states have passed laws allowing cemeteries to bury owners next to their pets. Virginia is about to become the latest state to do so. From member station WBTF in Roanoke, Beverly Amsle - forgive me - Beverly Amsler sent this report.
DON WILSON: There's Peanut and Bootsie and Choppie, Niles, Sassy Mae, Mr. Bojangles, Gypsy and Princess.
BEVERLY AMSLER, BYLINE: Don Wilson is standing in the corner of Mountain View Cemetery in Vinton, Virginia, reading the names from a row of flat stones marking the graves of dogs and cats. Mountain View is one of five cemeteries that he runs.
WILSON: We see people coming to visit and pay their respects and remember their pets in this section, just as we do in the rest of the cemetery.
AMSLER: Pets have been buried here for four years now, and this section is separated by a row of short green shrubs. Starting in July, Wilson will be able to designate a separate section of land at his cemeteries for humans who want to be buried beside their pets.
TOM RAKOCZY: Let's go for a good walk. I love you.
AMSLER: Tom Rakoczy and his wife moved here from Ohio just so they can be buried in the plot next to their 11 dogs.
(SOUNDBITE OF DOG BARKING)
RAKOCZY: Let's go outside. Loved ones could come with two legs or four legs. We have no human children, and our dogs, for the last 40 years of our marriage, have been our family.
AMSLER: Virginia joins a growing number of states, including Pennsylvania and New York, where cemeteries are being allowed to create special pet-human burial sections. The law was spearheaded here by Kelly Farris, who owns a funeral service in Abingdon. A few years ago, he and his family set aside some land for a future Garden of Loyalty.
KELLY FARRIS: I think that we're just progressive, and we thought of something with the help of our clients, basically. It - to me it was a common sense thing to do.
AMSLER: He now has a waiting list of 25 people. When the law goes into effect, Farris can start the burials. He says, pets will have to be in a special casket.
FARRIS: Just like for humans, they're going to have to be in an outer burial container 'cause we've got to maintain the appearance of the graves forever. There's companies out there that we use that have caskets designed for different sizes. Primarily, it's cats and dogs that we're working with.
AMSLER: In Pennsylvania, cemeteries have had separate pet-human sections for the last eight years. Hillcrest Memorial Park, in western Pennsylvania, set up the first one. And owner Tom Flynn estimates 80 people and pets have been buried in what he calls the People and Pets Garden. He says, some of the pets buried here are waiting for their owners to join them. Some owners already buried here are waiting for their pets.
TOM FLYNN: People buy ahead of time so they can be buried with their pets. Some even exchange their lots in the cemetery for lots of the people and pets section. It's probably the prettiest part of the cemetery.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.