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Britons mark pets’ passing

AS A nation of animal lovers, Britons show dogged devotion to their pets, even after they have died, marking their passing with special events including full funerals, poetry readings or the playing of a favourite song.

Some, like the Queen, have commissioned headstones. Others pay for works of art or even a taxidermist. But it all adds up to dog owners lavishing more than ever before on fitting tributes for their canine companions.

Four out of 10 dog owners have staged a ceremony to mark their dog's death, with an estimated 136,000 a year holding funerals, according to a new survey.

Common features of pet funerals include talking about the deceased dog's life and character (53%), prayers (47%) and laying flowers (29%). The ceremonies often involve readings (12%) and playing a favourite song (nine%).

But giving a pet a proper send off does not come cheaply. A fifth of dog owners spend more than £100 after their dog has passed away, with one in 20 spending more than £200.

Of those who did hold funerals, three quarters considered the service for their pet to be just as important as a family funeral, while nearly half admitted that they loved their dogs more than some members of their extended family.

The survey, carried out by YouGov who questioned 1,139 dog owners for Direct Line Pet Insurance, found that the Welsh were among the most devoted: 44 per cent of owners admitted that they visited their pet's grave weekly.

Londoners were the most extravagant: 36 per cent admitted spending more than £100 on their pet after its death.

Yorkshire owners were more likely to cremate their dogs and scatter their ashes somewhere special.

The Scots came top - at 18 per cent - for commissioning works of art. In the South-East and North-West at least two per cent of dead dogs would end up stuffed.

Chris Price, the head of Direct Line Pet Insurance, said: "Many people see their dog as one of the family, which explains why 82 per cent of the dog owners who held a funeral said a proper service to mark their passing is the least they deserve after a lifetime of devotion.

"Coping with the death of a much loved dog can be difficult so those struggling with bereavement should take comfort from appropriate counselling services. To help pet owners come to terms with the loss of their pet, Direct Line Pet Insurance has set up a pet bereavement helpline for its policyholders. We have helped hundreds of pet owners talk through their loss.

These callers need a great deal of understanding and compassion shown to them and often call back on more than one occasion, even many weeks after their loss."