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Does the Funeral Rule Apply to Pet Cemeteries

Tips and Guidance from Our Experts about Pet Cemeteries

With the advent of pet memorials of all types - from pet cremation urns to pet caskets to pet cremation jewelry - many consumers have begun to wonder in recent years whether the Federal Trade Commission’s famed Funeral Rule applies to pet cemeteries.

The answer is the same as it is to the question of whether the funeral rule applies to human cemeteries: the rule does not formally apply to pet cemeteries, but, practically speaking, the vast majority of pet cemeteries in the United States do respect the spirit of this law.

Pet tributes can offer a wonderful way to preserve the memory of a special friendWhen the FTC created the Funeral Rule, the intention was to address numerous citizen complaints that funeral homes (for people) routinely adopted practices and policies that were abusive to consumers, limited competition and led to artificially high prices for products such as caskets and cremation urns. The Funeral Rule required funeral homes to end these practices - which had become more or less standard throughout the industry by the 1950s - but it stopped short of imposing similar restrictions on cemeteries. There has long been much speculation as to why the FTC did not include cemeteries in the rule, but the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of cemeteries do abide by its spirit of the Funeral Rule, because it serves as an ethical guideline. Consumer groups and regulators are quick to point out that self-policing is in the cemeteries’ own best interest because the funeral rule only encourages good, fair, honest business practices. (Also, they point out, lawmakers would certainly be quick to expand the funeral rule to include cemeteries if they deemed it necessary.) So, for practical purposes, most modern, reputable cemeteries do not adhere to anti-competitive policies - such as requiring customers to buy headstone or other memorial products from particular sources - even though the funeral law does not specifically apply to cemeteries. (Many legal scholars will say that the practices outlawed by the funeral rule are also prohibited by other laws - which apply to all businesses - anyway.)

So, just as with human cemeteries, it is rare today to find a pet cemetery that does not operate according to the principles of the funeral rule. Customers who are considering burying a beloved pet in a pet cemetery should feel confident that their cemetery will allow the use of pet caskets, pet urns, pet statues and other such products that have purchased from some “outside” source. In the extremely unlikely case in which a pet cemetery is not willing to abide by the spirit of the funeral rule, however, consumers, unfortunately, have no legal recourse in which to turn. (So they cannot simply file a complaint with the FTC or the U.S. Justice Department, and the pet cemetery certainly has no possibility of facing a fine.) But that is not to say they do not have any recourse. Consumers are, by no means, forced to do business with a pet cemetery that does not respect the spirit of the funeral rule, and, there are plenty of media outlets who would be interested to hear the story of a pet cemetery who used strong armed sales tactics to intimidate consumers into buying specific caskets or cremation urns for their pets. Customers can also most likely turn to trade groups or operations like Angies List.com or the Better Business Bureau to air any complaints they may have about unfair practices of a pet cemetery. These organizations will likely insist that their members adhere to fair practices that are consistent with the spirit of the funeral rule.

Most pet cemeteries honor the funeral rule for the sake of ethical practicesThe heartening news is that, again, the vast majority of customers looking to hire the services of a pet cemetery should have no need to worry that the establishment they are dealing with is, in any way, violating the spirit of t he funeral rule. Very few pet cemeteries today will deny a customer’s request to use, say, a pet casket purchased from a different dealer. These cemeteries may sell caskets, of course, and they may require that all caskets in their premises meet specific standards. (So they may ask to approve a casket before it can be use on their property.) But they are very unlikely to deny a casket that a customer bought from another establishment. Customers therefore should feel free to be frugal shoppers, making sure they check with multiple sources before making a decision about which pet casket (or any pet memorial product) to buy. Price and quality can vary a great deal from dealer to dealer. If during their search for just the right pet casket or pet cremation urn, customers should understand that, on the off chance that a representative of their pet cemetery tries to discourage a purchase of another company’s product (by any means other than simply pointing out that good features of their own product), then the pet cemetery may be in violation of the spirit of the funeral rule. In those situations, a pet cemetery customer would do well to proceed cautiously. They may find it necessary to move their planned burial to another pet cemetery, in fact.

Many customers who are grieving the loss of a pet may find it uncomfortable or distasteful to apply a “tough shopping” approach to searching for pet memorial products suitable for a pet cemetery grave. This is certainly an understandable reaction, and it is one of the reasons why consumer experts recommend that anyone planning a memorial for a pet bring along a trusted friend who is not necessarily emotionally involved with the pet. This person can act as an agent for the bereaved pet owner, making sure that the funeral rule’s spirit remains well respected throughout the search for the pet memorial product. This sort of active involvement on behalf of the consumer is just one way that consumers can help to make sure that the tradition of self-policing that pet cemeteries now operate under remains a good deal for everyone involved.

 

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