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Pet Owners RIP-PED Off in Guangzhou

Li Shanmei paid out 5,000 yuan (US$618) almost one month's salary for her cat's funeral, more than it costs to cremate some people.


The money included 3,000 yuan (US$371) for a grave and tombstone with a picture of the cat and 2,000 yuan (US$247) for the actual service.


Li, a white-collar worker, said she would visit the graveyard and pay tribute to her pet annually.


Li is just one of a growing number of residents who have held funerals and built tombs for their pets in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province, in recent years.


Li, 32, had the animal for more than seven years.


"I was really heart-broken when my cat died, so I wanted to build a tomb to help me cherish my memories," Li said.


More than 20 animal tombs have been spotted on a small hill located near Guangzhou Sculpture Park in Guangzhou's Yuexiu District.


Many local pet stores and hospitals have begun to provide a funeral service for animals.


The boss of a pet store in Guangzhou's Dezhengbei Road said a cremation service for an animal weighing more than 15 kilograms costs 1,500 yuan (US$185) while a burial ceremony for an animal usually costs 3,000 yuan (US$371).


The cremation of a human body costs 230 yuan (US$28) at the Guangzhou Funeral Parlour.


The pet store boss, surnamed Li, said his company has spent more than 1 million yuan (US$123,609) on a special furnace to cremate animals.


As demand for pet tombs increase, many places in Guangdong are considering establishing special graveyards for them.


Some cemeteries for humans are planning to make a special area for animal tombs.


The growing number of pet tombs in Guangzhou has, however, caused concern among civil affairs departments.


The rising number of animal tombs is taking up valuable space, said officials from Guangzhou Funeral Service Center.


But as there are no relevant laws or regulations, it seems nothing can be done at present.


It is estimated that the city has more than 1,000 pet tombs and graveyards for dogs, cats, rabbits, squirrels and even snakes.


Most of them are in the city's suburban areas.


Pet store boss Li said his firm's advanced equipment can compete with the Guangzhou Funeral Parlor.


Despite the high price for his services, Li's business seems to be doing well, with three to five animal funerals every month.


 (China Daily October 24, 2005)

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