The Economy’s Being Blamed for the Decline of Pet Burials

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A pet burial, complete with a casket, ceremony, and cemetery plot, runs around $800. Cremating a pet, on the other hand, costs about $80. Guess which option is increasingly being chosen by pet owners?

Some $47.7 billion was spent on pets last year in the U.S., up from $45.5 billion in 2009. But it appears as if pet owners are scaling back on at least one expense related to their dogs, cats, birds, and goldfish.

The Los Angeles Times reports that even throughout the economic downturn consumers have kept coughing up big bucks for their pets—but only while they’re alive. When pets pass away, owners today are less willing to pay top dollar for burials, fancy caskets, and the like as they were a few years ago.

Mimicking the new American way of death among humans in the post-recession world, in which burial plot sales declined as the number of cremations soared, pet owners are more likely today to elect for cremation when their pets die. The shift is being viewed as yet another unusual economic indicator, in which an array of spending habits and priorities are changing due to an economy that just isn’t bouncing back as swiftly as anyone wished.

At the Sea Breeze Pet Cemetery in Huntington Beach, people who pre-purchased plots for their pets are even choosing not to bury them when the time comes. Why? Even with the plot paid for, there are other expenses, including pet caskets than run upwards of $300:

“We have people that have plots here now that would just rather cremate just because they can’t afford burial at the moment,” said Kayla Hanna, one of six employees at the family business and daughter of owner Brenda Weaver.

While burials are down, sales of urns, special items to memorialize pets, and cardboard tubes designed for carrying and dispersing the cremated remains of pets are on the rise. Just because the owner can’t afford a fancy funeral, it doesn’t mean that the deceased pet isn’t mourned.

(MORE: Q&A: Do We Love Our Dogs More Than People?)

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.