The plan, floated in the sanctuary's newsletter a week ago, has prompted 14 inquiries. John Mulliner, a Wolverhampton accountant, has already willed half his estate to the sanctuary at nearby Perton, provided it ensures his burial alongside his 35-stone Red Tamworth pig, Tina. 'I've known her since she was a tiny pig,' said Mr Mulliner. 'I rescued her in 1987 and she's stayed at the sanctuary. I go down there every Saturday and have some marvellous times. So I just thought, why not be buried alongside my best friend when the time comes?'
Billy Wilson, controller of the Tettenhall Sanctuary Cemetery for Animals, already inters pets for a small fee on a 'tranquil, well-drained hillside'. Some owners' depth of grief prompted him to offer more. 'I have had one lady coming here to the grave of her pet for the past 14 months, cloaked in black and supported by her husband and daughter.'
He decided to raise the idea of side-by-side burials. 'Thoughts to the afterlife need to be considered by everyone who enjoys a tidy life,' he wrote in the newsletter. 'You may reserve your favourite spot to join your friend for all eternity.'
Mr Wilson is convinced this is an idea whose time has come. 'We are moving into a new era of animal welfare. People are respecting animals and giving them equal status.'
Conventional burials, with coffins, will be available, but 'if someone wants to keep the cost down, we could always lay them to rest in straw like their pets. We'd lower them in gently.'