With permission, this article was copied from Chet Womach’s The Dog Training Secret.com. Minette, the writer of the article is a former vet technician who writes many informative articles for the site.
This is an important article for so many people who, when deeply grieving the loss of their furpal, need to understand what to do when choosing to cremate their beloved pal.
April 8th, 2013
I hate conspiracy theories, I am not a believer but I think I have uncovered one!
This is probably the hardest article I have ever written. Usually writing comes pretty easily to me, don’t get me wrong I have my bad days and my writers block days where I want to write but clear thoughts don’t really enter my mind in a coherent way; but this article is different.
It has taken me 7 months to get to a place where I could even contemplate writing it and it breaks my heart, but I am hoping my story will save other people the heart ache I have gone through.
As many of you know, my “angel in fur” my “furry soul mate” my “heart dog” died in September of last year.
Cancer had invaded his lungs and I didn’t know until it was too late, I woke up he was having trouble breathing and he had to be euthanized that day; he had been so stoic that there was no warning that he had been battling cancer.
A piece of me died that day, a big piece.
Euthanizing your pet, your family member is hard enough, it is devastating to say good bye and I realized it is almost equally hard to pick up your pet’s ashes post euthanasia and cremation; but I had always wanted to be buried with my special dog when I died.
I was a vet tech for many years, so I guess I just trusted the veterinary/cremation process and took some of my knowledge and expectations for granted. I made sure after my dog had been euthanized that I would be getting him individually cremated and that I would get just his remains… I paid for that, but I didn’t drill the ER clinic about who they contracted with and what my expectations of his treatment post death would be; I assumed that the rituals I had known as a vet tech were standard in all/most (especially a well- known ER clinic) within the veterinary world.
I guess this was my mistake and I am here to make sure it is not yours.
When I went to pick up my baby’s ashes, he had been disposed of in a Ziploc bag, which had then been put in a velvet bag; however the Ziploc bag had sustained several holes in transit and so his ashes had spilled out into the velvet bag and to add insult to injury there was no documentation of substance. There was a tiny paper hand written tag that had been looped onto the bag with his name on it, but that was it.
There was no information or certificate on when he died, who had cremated him and when, how much he weighed or any kind of certification at all; no metal tags that had followed his body through the process… there was just nothing.me kissing nix
I was livid. As a former veterinary technician I knew that a good crematory has the veterinary hospital tag the body with a metal tag and this tag and number follows the body through the cremation process to provide some kind of documentation to the individual cremation.
I of course complained to the veterinary clinic, to my regular veterinary clinic, and to any other veterinary clinic that would listen.
But NO ONE CARED
As I did more research into the pet crematory business I learned that most people don’t realize and honestly most people don’t want to know that there are really no regulations for pet crematories. This is a multi-billion dollar service and NO ONE is regulating it, not state veterinary board, not the department of agriculture, animal control, there is literally no governing body that regulates or sets standards for pet cremations.
You think you are paying for a “private or individual” cremation (depending on the lingo of the chosen pet crematory) but in most cases you are getting “co-mingled” ashes with several other pets and sometimes other animals. Even though people think they are paying to get ONLY their dog back.
Pet crematories are nothing like human crematories.
If another human was found in the incinerator of a human crematory, officials would be calling for the shutting down of the business and the business owner would be looking at mandatory prison time.
But that is not the case with animals,
Who Else’s Ashes Do I Have??
Pet crematories claim that they can safely separate the ashes with barriers and cremate several pets at once, but if that were true why then is it not allowed for people?? And why is it not regularly disclosed to pet owners who think they are only getting their pet back.
The Problem with most Pet Crematories is…
The problem is that most pet crematories contract with vet clinics not the pet owner. You leave your beloved pet with the vet (thinking he will be in good hands) and the crematories pick up animals in mass quantities. The vet clinic has no knowledge of what happens behind closed doors and may even believe that your pet will get individual treatment; they may have even visited the crematory or witnessed a private cremation, but that does not ensure that that is how the business is regularly run (everyone is on good behavior when visitors are there).
The Sad Fact is…
The veterinary practices make money, usually a percentage, on the cremation of your pet, and the crematory with the best price gets the most business… but in order to meet demands many crematories fall to fraud; communally cremating a mass amount of dogs and then giving pet owner some of the cremains of whatever animal or animals were incinerated.
In many cases the vet hospitals don’t even realize it; and if questioned they are reluctant to switch providers because of the amount of profit they make from the cremation.
I am not saying all vets are crooked or that all crematories are bad. Just that there are no regulations, and most people are driven by money. I’m sure there are people with good ethics out there trying to be ethical.
This would be like human hospitals taking control of the loved one of someone who died and contracting to dispose of the remains without the approval or knowledge of the family or knowing where the remains are going.
Most pet owners don’t even know the name of the cremation business until they pick up the ashes, in their state of shock and sadness they trust their veterinary clinic to contract with someone who is reputable, I know I did.
But I will never again leave my pet to be taken care of by someone else. Even when I tried to research the business and I searched pet crematoriums in this area, this business doesn’t even come up. No website, no listing, no yellow pages add, the only listing is for a kennel the same people run. The vets seem to be the only ones that even know these people provide this service? This also makes me question their integrity as does the fact that the business owners own several other businesses that provide a variety of services, one being carcass removal for the highway department.
The ER clinic doesn’t want to get involved because they don’t want to lose money and have to hire a more credible but more expensive crematorium.
Because of the bad business practices of one crematory their actions have forced me to research this business and who regulates it… and the answer is really NO ONE.
Although I have logged complaints with vets, the BBB, Consumer Relations, the State Veterinary Board, and the Attorney General no one wants to take action, admit fault, or make a change.
After a major lawsuit, Illinois enacted a law after fraud was found to run rampant with crematories in the state, but the law still allows for the presence of “other” cremains with the pet (and no amount is stated), so private or individual cremations are still not ensured and businesses are protected by law.
Do the Math
When I spoke to a local pet crematorium sharing my story and searching for information they informed me that it takes several hours to cremate just one small to medium sized pet. Running two incinerators all day, I was told they could only cremate a maximum of 8 pets per day (small to medium sized) and larger pets would of course take longer.
The incinerator needs to heat to the appropriate degree, cremate the pet efficiently, and then cool down for ashes to be collected.
The numbers of pets taken in, and pets returned usually just doesn’t add up!
And, it is expensive with the costs of energy, fuel and manpower.
And When I Contacted the Media?
No one wants to help.
Even though I did the research and I can prove that there is a large amount of fraud in the pet cremation business and I can even prove that the remains that I received back weigh more than they should for a pet of his size, no one wants to get involved.
Many people don’t want to think, or know that the boxes of remains around their homes are not really their pet.
A friend of mine in another state also had her large dog (80#) euthanized and cremated the same week I lost my boy, and when her dog was returned the cremains weighed the same as her cremated cat (10#). A friend of hers had also shared that when his wife went to find the metal piece from an earlier surgery in the ashes and it was missing, they too knew the ashes they had received were not those of their family pet.
And I have heard countless stories of others who know the remains they got back weren’t their pet. The only avenue pet owners are left with is privately suing the cremation company, but since these businesses are not forced to keep records there is often no way to prove a claim.
Several exposes have been done on this kind of business.
So What Can You Do if You Want Your Pet Individually Cremated?
Do your own research!!! Don’t go through your vet, no matter what they say or how much you love them. They may not know!
I even question the crematory our old clinic used when I was a tech… although I had visited during an open house, I have no idea what really happens and I learned that metal tags are a good sign but not insurance.
It was too late, but I did my research after the fact.
I visited crematories and spoke with staff. Most places will allow you to make your own arrangements with them that can help give you piece of mind. Most of these businesses will also pick up your pet, even if your vet doesn’t usually contract with them.
However I have also learned that there is no way to know for sure unless you are there.
As distasteful as it sounds unless you can see inside the incinerator, watch your pet go in, and stay throughout the process in the room, there is no way to be 100% sure that you are only receiving your pet’s ashes.
Pets are no longer just “possessions or property” to most people, they are family and they deserve dignity in their lives as well as their death.
As Minette so strongly recommends, research the crematory you choose. If they won’t allow you to visit their facilities, go elsewhere. You have choices.