Local Shopkeepers Sell Funeral Items For Family Pet

LAKEWOOD, Ohio (AP) - Among the voodoo dolls, rabbit-fur purses, Mexican wrestler dolls and jeweled chicken-wishbone necklaces for sale in Jackie Zubal and Tina Romanak's shop, one can find the truly unusual -- a casket for the dearly departed family pet.

Zubal and Romanak got the idea of adding a line of coffins and tombstones for pets to sell in their shop, Gotta Have It, after a customer requested a Gothic-styled jewelry box -- which, the owners say, is another use for the casket until its ultimate use for the family pet.

Small sample caskets start at $65 and can be "good for a hamster, a bird or a really small dog," Zubal said. Big caskets could cost $125 or more, depending on the size of the pet and the amount of artistic detailing.

So far, the shop in this Cleveland suburb has sold two caskets for pet funerals, one for a cat and one for a hamster, but Zubal and Romanak are already considering ways they can expand the line. Cremation urns are another item the women might add to their line.

Margaret Klott, who spent $80 on a casket for her daughter's pet cat, Flower, said she bought the handcrafted, wooden coffin because the cat was so important to her daughter.

"It was her cat since she was 7," Klott said. "She picked it out, and it was such a sweet kitty."

The practice of applying traditionally human characteristics to a pet's burial is becoming more common, said Jennifer Brandt, a member of the Bond-Centered Education and Practice program at the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

"More and more folks are deciding to buy a casket or do something formal to honor the life of their pet," she said. "Many times this is an animal that has provided unconditional love, security and friendship for 15 years. It's not like a member of the family, it is family."

Mike Hudson, of Lakewood, whose company, Creations in Stone, provides the hand-engraved pet tombstones that start at $30 for Gotta Have It, has witnessed the increased interest first hand.

"It's a pretty big thing," he said. "You'd be amazed."

Hudson said he has carved a couple dozen animal headstones for other clients, mostly elaborate pieces costing $100 or more.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)