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Burying Fido - Authorities consider framework for animal disposal

Published:Tuesday | June 30, 2015 | 6:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin

Authorities are considering implementing a structured framework to properly monitor how animals are buried. In an interview with The Gleaner, Leonard Francis, director of the Spatial and Planning Division at the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), said that the agency was in the process of building a policy titled 'Planning for the Dead', which will, among other things, aid in protecting environmentally sensitive lands.

"There is a reason we call it 'Planning for the Dead'. The problem we face as a country is much deeper than cemeteries and human beings. We will seriously have to consider how we deal with treating animals when they die. It cannot be that we throw them in the back of our yards as is normally the case," he declared.

"People are becoming so attached to their animals. Everywhere you look people are walking their dogs and everything is becoming a pet, which is not a bad thing. The fact is, however, there are serious environmental impacts if it's not treated responsibly," Francis told The Gleaner.

He added: "I do know a lot about horses, for example, and when we look at what they eat, they get a lot of medical treatment compared to humans and that can pose more danger for the environment, even more than humans. Should we be thinking of a pet cemetery? Should we have rules for cremating animals?" he asked.

In the meantime, Francis noted that several discussions have been taking place to look at alternatives to deal with the limited space that is available to bury the dead.

possible crisis

The agency, in a recent Gleaner article, pointed to a possible crisis that could arise as it revealed that the country was running out of space to bury persons.

"On Wednesday of this week, we had our first external meeting which included religious groups, parish councils, owners of mortuaries, among other stakeholders. As an agency, we shared what we have been seeing and our experiences when we are called upon to review submissions for cemeteries, and there were a number of issues that were discussed," he said.

Similarly, Gregory Bennett, manager of the National Spatial Strategy Branch/Geographical Information System, noted that it was imperative that options are implemented to address the problem.

"The meeting was to explore new avenues in treating with the dead, looking at the population in Jamaica, the cultural heritage and diversity, and also global trends as it relates to how countries are treating with the dead," Bennett told The Gleaner.

"Following this, a research paper will be put together to see what alternatives can be explored as a country to deal with the issue, and from there we will have public consultations. We are trying to cut out the methods that we have been using over the years to bury people because it's a bit inefficient, ineffective, and it's fragmenting the lands," he said.