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Rest in Peace, Pet

While people bury their pets in playgrounds and dumpyards after they die, Delhi is in dire need of more pet cemeteries so that our furry friends can rest in peace

For Aakriti Tiwari, a resident of Rohini, her rabbit Fluffy was her life. After a hectic day, when she came back home, she was greeted by the white furry body of Fluffy waiting near the door for her to arrive. Fluffy was just like Aakriti’s son. But in November 2016, tragedy struck as Fluffy succumbed to a heart attack.

After Fluffy’s death, Aakriti was disheartened by the fact she had to bury him in a playground near her house without performing any ritual. “His whole life, I treated him like one of my own. So, it was really sad for me to bury him in a dirty corner of a playground. I felt I could not do justice to all the love he gave me”, she regrets.

Sombuddha Hazra Chaudhury, a resident of Rajinder Nagar, lost his German Shepherd Bozo in October 2017. “When he died, I wanted to cremate him like I would any near and dear one. But we couldn’t. I had to bury him in a small dumpyard near my house. He was an integral part of my life. But I treated him like a piece of trash”, says Chaudhury, with tears in his eyes.
According to animal rights activist Ashu Nathani, “We need proper cemeteries and resting places for our furry friends. They become a part and parcel of our lives and to treat them like garbage after they are dead, is nothing less than animal cruelty. We call a dog man’s best friend. Will we be able to throw our best friend anywhere when he or she dies?”

For the solution to this recurring problem of animal lovers and pet owners, pet cemeteries set up in foreign countries like USA, Russia and England. USA alone has more than 1,000 cemeteries across the country. London has more than 20 cemeteries that are dedicated only to pets and stray animals. However, in the whole of India there are only 15 cemeteries, out of which Delhi has two.

Paws, an organisation dedicated to the welfare of animals established the city’s first pet crematorium, Paws to Heaven in South Delhi’s Chattarpur. “Pet parents treat these animals like their children, and not like animals. So, it is our duty to provide these parents, during the time of their grief, a proper place for their pet to rest”, says veterinarian RT Sharma, president of Paws.
Paws provides facilities of both burying and cremating pets. “If the owner is a Hindu, and wants his pet to be cremated, we have the facility of cremating their pets, and if the owner is Muslim or Christian, we have the provision to bury them as well”, says Dr Sharma. “We even have a prayer room and temple inside the crematorium, so that the family of the deceased can conduct prayer meetings and pujas dedicated for the peace of the animals’ souls”, adds Sharma. The wall of the prayer hall, called the memorial wall, has the photos of all the deceased dogs that have been buried or cremated at that ground.

The Sanjay Gandhi Animal Care Centre in Tagore Garden Extension, founded in 1983 was the first animal cemetery in New Delhi. “We freshly dig graves to whoever comes to us, and irrespective of whether the animal is a pet or stray, we bury them”, says Aavritee Naithani, the director of the animal care centre. They charge Rs 500 for each burial, which in turn is added to their animal care fund. For every animal burial, they also offer the owner to plant a sapling in their pet’s memory. “Our burial ground is currently under renovation, as we plan to make it a state of the art cemetery with a provision for cremating the animals as well”, says Naithani.

The Jeevashram Foun-dation, founded in 1990 in Rajokri Village, is a private veterinary hospital that treats different kinds of animals. “After years of treating animals, and seeing many animals die in front of me over the years, the realisation dawned on my mind that since we are providing service for the well-being of these animals, we should also ensure that they rest in peace after their demise”, says Dr Sunil Verma, the founder of Jeevashram Foundation. With this thought in mind, Verma converted a part of the garden of the hospital into a pet cemetery in 2008.

“I treat so many animals, but the peace on a parent’s face after he realizes that his pet will forever rest in tranquility satisfies me the most”, says Verma. Named Garden of Eternal Peace, the cemetery is only for burying pets as they don’t have the provision to cremate the animals. “We have proper graves with gravestones and memorials for each pet who is buried here”, says Dr Verma, who adds that his cemetery also houses the grave of a chimpanzee who died at the Delhi Zoo.

These cemeteries, in addition to burying and cremating pets, also do the same if they find any stray dog lying on the roads. “There are so many stray dogs and cats that die every day on our streets, but no one bats an eyelid. The municipal workers throw those bodies in junkyards along with garbage. This is a form of animal cruelty nobody talks about”, says Dr Verma.
Suraj Singh’s pet beagle Rey passed away in April 2018, and he wanted to cremate his dog, as he would anyone in the family. “I was adamant to cremate him, in spite of repeated advice from everyone that I should bury him in a field near my house”, says Singh. “It was then that I found out about the Paws to Heaven crematorium near my house. I performed his last rites in the exact way I did when my mother passed away. I even performed a shraddh for his soul to rest in peace”, says Singh.

But not all animals get such a loving sendoff. According to the animal census 2017, the Delhi-NCR region accounts for more than 15 crore dogs, nine crore cats, 30 lakh rabbits and over six crore cows. “Delhi needs to have more pet cemeteries. A city like Bangalore, alone has seven of the 15 cemeteries in India and there are already more cemeteries coming up in Kolkata, Kochi and Mumbai. But there is no such plan in Delhi”, says Dr RT Sharma.

“Animals like humans have feelings. They feel pain, they feel love. So, it’s his right to be treated ethically after the bodily end”, concludes Ashu Nathani.