German church debates human-animal burials


Central Europe


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Should people be able to be buried with their pets? That is the question a working group in the Protestant Church (EKD) in Northern Germany is studying.

The working group of cemetery officers is developing recommendations on human-animal burials, in which animal ashes are buried as grave goods in the coffin or as a separate urn in the same grave. This is reported by the Evangelische Zeitung

According to the cemetery officials, the need for this type of burial has yet to be determined. Particularly in rural areas, small pets are often buried in the garden. Carcass disposal is mostly used for larger animals.

The working group wants to clarify that such burial sites will clearly be separated from purely human burial sites. The new type cemeteries may not have been used for human burials.


The parish of Borbeck-Vogelheim in western Germany already offers the possibility of burying people and animals close to one another. In the “Garden of Connectedness”, as the graveyard is called, animal lovers and their pets can find a common final resting place in the future. “Many pet owners have a long common history with their beloved roommates,” Pastor Kai Pleuser says to the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung. “It is therefore not surprising that people feel the desire to express their bond with their beloved pet even after death.”

However, it is not yet possible to be buried in the “Garden of Connectedness”. The cemetery statutes have recently been modified, Pleuser explains. Approval from the regional church has not been granted so far, since their review contained formulations that need further revisions. “But these comments have nothing to do with the passage about the planned joint burial site”, Pleuser emphasises.


According to the Evangelische Zeitung, it could be questioned whether separate church rituals should be developed for animal burials. As the newspaper reported earlier, the Rostock Protestant theology professor Thomas Klie previously pointed out that the burial of a deceased pet could possibly be a new form of an official act.

Klie said that the church could certainly do more regarding animal burials than before. Klie suggested thinking about rededicating open spaces in church cemeteries for animal burials.

At the same time, the theologian pointed out that animal burials polarise people. There is also no consensus as to whether animals have souls.

According to Klie, the possibility to have people and animals buried in a common urn grave exists at some German cemeteries since 2015. But not ecclesiastical, he emphasized. Church guidelines have so far not permitted a church burial for animals. However, there is the first church cemetery for pets in the north in the Schleswig-Holstein municipality of Niederkleveez in the Plön district. The burial, however, takes place without a service or church rituals.



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