Details 16:20 05 Sep 2023

Stephen King wouldn't dream: what is happening with pet cemeteries in Kyiv

What is more frightening: Stephen King's fantasy-horror Pet Sematary or everyday Ukrainian reality, in which such cemeteries are everywhere, but officially, they do not exist at all? Rubryka found out how pets are now buried in the capital, who is responsible for the official cemetery for animals, when it will appear, and what it will be like, and also learned about other Ukrainian and world experiences.

What is the problem?

Кладовища для домашніх тварин у Києві

One of Kyiv's natural pet cemeteries.

There is no official cemetery for pets in Kyiv. Moreover, there is only one official columbarium — a place for burying urns with ashes of animals in Ukraine. For many people, cats, dogs, hamsters, parrots, and other animals become full members of the family who deserve their proper last respects.

Кладовища для домашніх тварин у Києві

An improvised pet cemetery on the Left Bank in Kyiv.

At the same time, the ecological aspect of this issue is also important.

Кладовища для домашніх тварин у Києві

On the screenshot, all cemeteries marked on the map are illegal. In fact, there are many more such spontaneous burial places.

What is the solution?

In Kyiv, it is planned to arrange a city cemetery for animals on a plot of land on Puhivska Street.

Until then, the Kyiv City Hospital of Veterinary Medicine is cremating the bodies of dead animals. However, there is currently no individual cremation here, and the ashes of animals are not given to their owners.

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A neat grave of a pet at one of Kyiv's natural pet cemeteries.

At the same time, many commercial structures provide pet burial services.

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One of the largest natural pet cemeteries is located in the Rusanivka area.

How will it work?
There will be a cemetery, but not soon

"Establishment of a city cemetery for animals as part of a columbarium with a tombstone on a plot of land on Puhivska Street will be organized upon the completion of the land management process, with the receipt of budget expenditures aimed at financing the tasks and activities of the 'Kyiv city target program of control over the keeping of domestic animals and regulation of the number of homeless animals by humane methods for 2020-2023′", replied to Rubryka's request Oleksandr Baibakov, acting first deputy director of the Department of Urban Development of the Kyiv City State Administration.

Кладовища для домашніх тварин у Києві

Dogs, cats, rabbits, and hamsters become family members for many people.

Natalya Mazur, acting director of the municipal enterprise Kyiv City Hospital of Veterinary Medicine, explains: "We have almost finished the land management procedure, but the war has affected. There are strategic objects nearby, and we cannot continue construction now. I hope that at some stage, we will be able to resume work. As a veterinarian, I would very much like these to be parallel processes because we understand that there are animals in the city, and they also die."

At the same time, she emphasizes that this will not be a cemetery in the sense that we are used to it. Only cremation and arrangement of the columbarium wall are provided. The cemetery will occupy approximately a little more than a hectare of land.

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The first official columbarium in Ukraine is located in Kharkiv. Photo courtesy of Kharkiv CE Animal Treatment Center.

"Of course, there will be a place where people can come and be alone with their pets after they are cremated," says the official.

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Spontaneous pet cemetery on Bilytska Street.

What is happening now?
The city offers only general cremation

"Currently, you see chaotic burials, but you and I live in the city, and we cannot pollute the environment. I understand these are our pets, but other people live next to us, we use the water, our children play here. Also, someone can bury an animal by 30 centimeters, someone by 40. This is dangerous," the official explained to Rubryka. "Therefore, chaotic burials are prohibited. Special places should be set aside for burials. Also, animals are cremated, and this option is correct both legally and in terms of compliance with sanitary and epidemiological norms."

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Destroyed improvised fences at the spontaneous pet cemetery on Bilytska street.

Kyiv City Hospital of Veterinary Medicine so far only offers general cremation, when several animals are cremated at the same time, and then does not give the animal's owner an urn with ashes. The owner can take the dead animal to the hospital, or the workers will come and pick it up. 

The hospital's responsibilities also include taking animals from the streets that have died under the wheels of a car or for other reasons.

"If the owner wants to receive an urn with ashes, they can find out on the Internet the telephone numbers of private companies that deal with individual cremation," advises the acting director.

What do private firms offer?
For your money, both burial (under your responsibility) and cremation

There are many representatives in this market area, but a considerable part of them are not too eager to contact the media.

Кладовища для домашніх тварин у Києві

As representatives of commercial structures say, sometimes the owners are ready to spend thousands of dollars to honor their deceased friends.

Most entrepreneurs inform on their websites about the illegality of burying animals underground and warn owners that these services are provided under their responsibility.

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Many websites provide pet burial and cremation services.

Some entrepreneurs say that they are more often asked about cremation, while others, on the contrary, say that this service is very unpopular. The acting director also talks about the decrease in appeals. "Currently, the demand is lower, of course. It is difficult to say what this is connected with. I know for sure that many people left with their animals. I hope people don't bury animals because we also drive past makeshift cemeteries, and I don't see a rapid increase in new burials there."

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This animal went over the rainbow a long time ago, but the owners still bring flowers to its grave.

Prices for burying an animal vary. Compared to the time before the war, they have increased significantly (approximately 80%) due to the increase in the cost of fuel, which primarily forms the price in the case of cremation.

"Now, crematorium services have become more expensive and cost approximately ₴800 purely for cremation and paperwork, but the cost of companies can be different depending on the wishes of the owner of the animal: someone wants the dog to be cremated in a coffin, someone wants to say goodbye, it's different," Felix Chehovych, director of the Spokiy Ritual House, comments to Rubryka.

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A room for saying goodbye to a pet in the Kharkiv Animal Treatment Center. Photo provided by CE Center for the treatment of animals.

Regarding the burial of animals in the ground, he says that there is no official cemetery, so they are buried in improvised ones, but this is at the peril and risk of the animal's owner. 

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Burial at the spontaneous cemetery in Rusanivka.

Who is responsible for burial sites?

Local government

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Burial at the makeshift cemetery in Rusanivka.

Кладовища для домашніх тварин у Києві

Can people be accused of breaking the law when the only official alternative is paid cremation? This is a difficult question.

Local authorities, namely the executive bodies of village, settlement, and city councils, in accordance with Art. 30 and Art. 33 of the Law of Ukraine "On Local Self-Government in Ukraine:"

  • solve the issues of collection, transportation, and disposal of household waste, disposal and burial of animal corpses;
  • determine the territory for the placement of waste in accordance with the legislation;
  • monitor the activities of business entities in the field of waste management.

What rules apply? Who controls their implementation?
Institutions of the state service of veterinary medicine

State veterinary and sanitary control and supervision of compliance with the above-mentioned rules are carried out by state veterinary medicine institutions.

Кладовища для домашніх тварин у Києві

No one arranges "nobody's" cemeteries.

This information was provided by Oleksandr Baibakov, acting first deputy director of the Department of Urban Development of the Kyiv City State Administration, at the request of Rubryka. Violation of requirements for handling waste, including waste of animal origin, their removal or burial, violation of state standards, norms, and rules in the field of improvement of settlements, as well as veterinary and sanitary norms entail responsibility in accordance with the current legislation of Ukraine."

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The animal is long gone, but its memory lives on. However, it is illegal to express it that way.

What will happen to spontaneous graveyards?
Until the appearance of an official cemetery — nothing

In the capital's electronic petition system, petitions appear both from the defenders of animal burial sites and those who are unhappy with them. At the time of preparing the material, none of them received the required number of votes for consideration.

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Screenshot from the page of petitions of the Kyiv City Council as of July 12, 2023.

What does the law say about this? In accordance with the law of Ukraine On Burials and Funeral Matters, existing burial places are not subject to demolition and can be moved only by decision of the relevant local self-government body in case of permanent flooding, landslide, earthquake, or other natural disaster, informs Baibakov.

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Kyiv officials assure: no one will demolish improvised burials

Mazur confirms that no one will simply demolish spontaneous burials. If it is still planned to rebury the animals, this will be a specific procedure: the corpses must be exhumed, and the soil must be disinfected.

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Pet cemetery in Rusanivka.

Other solutions
The cemetery as a modular structure made of capsules

One of the largest natural pet cemeteries in Kyiv is located on Sverstyuka Street. Recently, the Aranchii Architects architectural office, on its own initiative, developed and presented a revitalization project for this area. It envisages the creation of a Sverstyuk linear park, including a cafe, a children's area, an amphitheater, and a pet cemetery.

"The concept of the cemetery is a modular structure made of capsules for burial, designed for eight thousand animals," reads the material dedicated to this project. The founder of the bureau, Dmytro Aranchii, noted that the project should encourage people to think about the city.

The Department of Urban Development of the Kyiv State City Administration noted that the Aranchii Architects project was not submitted to them. Mazur doesn't know about it either, but she is against cemeteries in parks, believing it is a place of sadness and should be a separate space.

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Joint burial of several pets.

Bio urns and memorial diamonds

Some solutions give the ashes of a beloved animal a new life.

One of them is placing the ashes of a cremated animal in a bio-urn. Such urns are made of biodegradable material, and a sprout of a tree or a bush is added there with soil and buried. Ordinary care allows you to turn the ashes of a deceased pet into a tree.

In 2020, a manufacturer of patented bio-urns appeared in Ukraine, but as of 2023, the contacts of this organization are not active.

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On the screenshot: This is what the bio-urn looked like, which began to be offered to Ukrainians in 2020. Unfortunately, the website of the organization is not working now.

You can also turn your pet's ashes into a memorial diamond. This is a real gem grown from the ashes of an animal. This service is costly.

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A screenshot from the website of one of the funeral bureaus that provide services in Kyiv and the region. The price starts from 67200.

Does it work somewhere in Ukraine?
Animals are brought to the Kharkiv columbarium from Dnipro, Kryvyi Rih and Kyiv

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Kharkiv columbarium. Photo provided by the communal enterprise Center for the treatment of animals.

Previously, many media mentioned the village of Babai in the Kharkiv region as the only one with an official cemetery for animals. But as of mid-July 2023, it no longer works.

The first official columbarium for animals in Ukraine is also in the Kharkiv region. It is active, and the demand for its services is very high, says Yelyzaveta Lytvynenko, head of the department of animal care and provision of services to the population of the Center for the treatment animals: "Now people are more responsible about burying an animal. The animal is still part of the family. I think the habit of burying animals in the forest remained among older people. Younger people are more responsible: many order individual cremation and either keep the ashes at home or bury them in the country under a rose bush."

In Kharkiv, there is a legal opportunity to say goodbye to an animal as a full-fledged family member. Photo provided by KP Center for the treatment of animals

There is also general and individual cremation. The price of an individual cremation is fixed because an equally fixed amount of fuel is used for one animal, ₴1,650. The cost of general cremation already depends on the weight of the dead animal and ranges from ₴450 to ₴1,000. As in Kyiv, in the case of a general cremation, the animal's ashes are not given to the owner because they cannot be separated from the ashes of other animals.

In the case of individual cremation, the owner receives the animal's ashes in an urn or special packaging. They can keep it or rent a cell in the columbarium.

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General view of the Kharkiv columbarium for animals. Photo provided by Center for the treatment of animals

The cost of renting a cell: per month — ₴57, per year — ₴684, for ten years — ₴3,600.

"In peacetime, we were open 24/7, and people came to see their animals whenever they wanted. Now, unfortunately, you can visit the columbarium only during the working hours of our company," says Lytvynenko.

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This is what the cells in the Kharkiv columbarium for animals look like. Photo provided by Center for the treatment of animals.

She says that to say goodbye to their pets in a dignified way, people take them to Kharkiv from the Dnipro, Kryvyi Rih, and even Kyiv.

"People who do not want to break the law spend this time to bring the animal and cremate it because there is no other place. Therefore, the demand is very high, and if a city builds such an institution, it will also have a good income," says the head of the department of the Kharkiv animal treatment center.

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Many people want to pay their last respects to an animal as a family member. Photo provided by Center for the treatment of animals

A similar solution has long been planned to be implemented in Odesa. As Maryna Savchenko, head of the department of ecology and development of recreation areas of the Odesa City Council, reported at the request of Rubryka, the department is currently working on developing a project to determine the cost estimate for the construction of such a complex.

The first phase involves the construction of a pavilion for a thermal installation for the disposal of animal corpses, enclosing it with a solid fence, and arranging places (cells) for burying urns with ashes after cremation. The second step should be the improvement of the square for eco-burials. According to the city's target program, the project of the complex should be developed this year.

How does it work in other countries?
Great Britain: burials in the yard are allowed

According to the UK's official pet burial regulations, developed by the UK's Environment Agency, small pets can be buried in the ground and even in your backyard or garden.

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Screenshot from the 2022 UK Official Guidelines page.

In the case of a larger animal, such as a horse, the most important thing is to follow the instructions so that there is no risk of groundwater contamination. These instructions are clearly written and published on the official website.

USA: rules are determined by the states

There are no uniform statewide rules for pet burials, but each state or smaller administrative unit regulates this issue independently.

There are states where you can bury animals in the ground in your backyard. For example, such permission is valid in California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Georgia. There are states where cremation is the preferred method.

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Burial at a pet cemetery in Kyiv.In some states, burying any animal on private property is illegal. Some states allow pets to be buried in their owners' backyards as long as it does not threaten human health or the environment. Some areas require pets to be kept within a specific property area. In other cases, a certain depth of burial may also be prescribed. Failure to comply with these rules may result in strict measures being taken against the owners, such as fines or other sanctions.

To be close to your pet even after the death of both of you

Many other countries like France, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland also have pet cemeteries and allow animal burials. In France last year, there was a debate about whether pets can be buried in a cemetery with people.

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One of Kyiv's pet cemeteries.

In 2015, the first such cemetery was opened in Essen, Germany. Here, you can bury the cremated remains of people together with pets. Since then, this practice has become more widespread in Germany. In particular, in 2017, at the cemetery of the easternmost city of Germany, Görlitz, it was allowed to bury pets next to those who loved them and even write the name of the animal on the tombstone of the deceased person. At the same time, the pet must be cremated, and there cannot be any ceremony for its funeral.


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