Your Pet Died... What Happens to its Remains - July/August 11
by Nancy Piper
The pet death care industry is changing. Pet death care started out as a disposal service using rendering companies where our large and small animal companions were made into fertilizer and other commercial products. Later, the method of pet disposal changed to mass cremation.
Finally someone asked, “May I have my pet’s ashes back?” And a company thought, yes — I can put the pet in the corner and sweep it out first. Gradually that changed. Several pets were cremated in a separate chamber. The cremated remains were swept out in reverse order in order to return the pets’ cremated remains to their right families. However, it is inevitable that the cremated remains are co-mingled.
When people, who thought of pets as family, started getting involved with pet death care, things changed. Those individuals wanted to make sure that pets were handled as humans are handled in the cremation procedure. That is, one pet should be cremated at a time so the family would receive their own pet back.
One group who taken this process a step farther, or even a giant leap farther. This group is called the Pet Loss Professionals Alliance (PLPA). The PLPA is a group of like-minded pet-loss care providers who are working to foster a high level of ethics and training within our profession. We are focused on establishing sound business practices and standards among our ranks and on promoting the value of quality pet-loss care to the public and veterinarians.
PLPA Mission Statement
The Pet Loss Professionals Alliance is committed to being an educational resource to its members. The membership, including pet loss suppliers and pet death care facility operators, is dedicated to the respectful and dignified treatment of those pets entrusted to us. We do this through the creation of programs to profitably meet the changing needs of the pet death care industry and our process partners in the areas of cemeteries, crematories and pet loss facilities, as well as the creation of standards to willfully meet our customers’ expectations.
Members of the PLPA recognize that we have special obligations to the pets, families and other businesses that we serve. As guardians of pets in death, we pledge:
- To care for the remains of those entrusted to us with dignity, respect and professional skill, whether at a clinic, funeral home, crematory or cemetery
- To honor the wishes of the family and to serve all families with respect, understanding and confidentiality
- To protect and preserve all interment sites and relevant historical data entrusted to us
- To be guided by the spirit and letter of all applicable laws and regulations set by governing bodies with jurisdiction over our activities in the ownership, management and operation of a funeral home, crematory, cemetery or related endeavor
- To be an educational resource and guide in standards relating to final pet death care options for our client families as well as our process partners
- Private cremation: A cremation procedure during which only one animal’s body is present in the cremation unit during the cremation process.
- Partitioned cremation: A cremation procedure during which more than one pet's body is present in the cremation chamber and the cremated remains of specific pets are to be returned. Due to a number of factors and by virtue of multiple pets being cremated within the same unit at the same time, active commingling of cremated remains will occur.
- Communal cremation: A cremation procedure where multiple animals are cremated together without any form of separation. These commingled cremated remains are not returned to owners.
- Cremation process: The heating process that reduces human or animal remains to bone fragments, followed by the processing that reduces bone fragments to unidentifiable dimensions.
- Commingling: Mixing of cremated remains.
Standards for Cremation Procedures
Single Pet — “One at a Time” Cremation Procedures
- Private Cremation: Any cremation procedure deemed “Private” must be performed with only one pet’s body or cremated remains in the cremation unit during the cremation process. Only “one pet at a time” will be cremated when a Private Cremation is performed.
All retrievable cremated remains should be collected from each cremation prior to placing the next animal’s body in the cremation unit.
Operators may not use the word “Private” in the title or description of any service in which more than one animal is cremated in any part of a single cremation unit at the same time. (i.e., “Semi-Private,” “Privately Partitioned,” is not acceptable).
It is the PLPA’s position that any company using the words “Private” or “Individual” in the definition and/or description of their cremation processes be expected to perform the procedure in the same manner as private cremations are performed by PLPA members.
Multiple Pet Cremation Procedures
• Partitioned Cremation — PLPA members will be expected to follow strict guidelines when/if performing this sort of cremation procedure. Full disclosure is expected from membership. The words “private” and/or “individual” are not to be used in whole or in part in the description and/or definition of this type of procedure.
At the very least, some contiguous method of effective physical separation—not just space—should be employed in order to keep co-mingling to a minimum. Co-mingling of cremated remains will occur with this type of cremation and will vary based upon conditions in the cremation chamber, height and type of the partitioning medium used, amount of space between animals, method of retrieval employed, and other factors.
- Communal Cremation — While allowing for some practical considerations at the discretion of the PLPA member, PLPA membership will be expected to treat the bodies of pets designated for communal cremation with respect and dignity at all times possible. This primarily includes, but is not limited to:
1. Completing the cremation expeditiously if cold storage is not available.
2. Minimizing or eliminating any amount of rough-handling of animals.
The final disposition of the cremated remains is to be disclosed to clients, but these cremated remains are not to be returned to clients in whole or in part. Unless otherwise prohibited in an operator’s jurisdiction, the PLPA recommends dignified disposition of the cremated remains, such as scattering or interment in a location that families may visit. Cremated remains of companion animals should not be disposed of in the garbage or land fill unless doing so is required by law of that jurisdiction. Operators should also disclose what the final disposition area is for the consumer.
- Family Cremation — A special type of multiple-pet cremation procedure performed at the request of a single owner or family during which pets from the same family, and only pets from the same family, are cremated together.
Be aware that there are various options for the cremation or burial of your beloved pet. Ask questions ahead of the time of need, if possible, so you can make an informed decision that is right for you and your pet. If your pet dies unexpectedly, ask for time to make a decision, if you need it. To find the pet cemeteries and crematories in your area, look in the yellow pages book or the yellow pages online under Pet Cemeteries and Crematories. You can also ask your veterinarian whom he/she uses. Then make phone calls. Ask detailed questions. You can call the cremation facility more than once. As you come up with more questions, call back.
For the utmost peace of mind, visit the cremation facility that you are considering using. After all, they will be handling your beloved pet. Ask for a tour. Ask for an explanation of their procedures. Make sure you are comfortable with the people and the facility. If the staff at the facility won’t show you everything and explain what their procedures are, or if you are offended by anything you encounter there, then it probably isn’t the place to use for your loved one.
For more information regarding the Pet Loss Professionals Alliance, go to www.iccfa.com/node/2562/ AboutPLPA
The PLPA is a committee of the International Cemeteries, Crematories and Funeral Association, which is the only international trade association representing all segments of the cemetery, funeral service, cremation and memorialization profession.
Nancy Bush Piper has owned Rolling Acres Memorial Gardens for Pets, a pet cemetery, crematorium, and funeral home in Kansas City for over 31 years. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and sociology from Northwest Missouri State University. Nancy continued her education in the cemetery industry, attending the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association University for two years, where she also taught a course one year. She was certified as a Grief Recovery Specialist in 1999 by the Grief Recovery Institute, Sherman Oaks, CA. Nancy worked in the human cemetery and funeral industry before, as well as after, she became involved with the after-life care of pets. Nancy and her husband, Gary, are blessed with many animals in their lives. www.visitrollingacres.com