Ask ques­tions when con­sid­er­ing pet cre­ma­tion

Record Observer - - News - By RYAN HELFENBEIN

AN­NAPO­LIS — The year was 2002 when the cre­ma­tion in­dus­try was for­ever changed.

In what would be­come a $40 mil­lion law­suit, heavy state reg­u­la­tion and an over­haul of proper man­age­ment in the world of cre­ma­tion, there arose a sit­u­a­tion in Ge­or­gia sur­round­ing Tris­tate Cre­ma­tory.

In sim­ple terms, the cre­ma­tory wasn’t do­ing their job. As a di­rect re­sult, reg­u­la­tions were im­ple­mented by each state and over­sight was in­sti­tuted to be sure that cre­ma­tions are car­ried out in a fash­ion that most un­der­tak­ers stand for: dig­nity, hon­esty and re­spect.

That was good for hu­man be­ings, but what about the four-legged furry friends that be­come just as much a part of a fam­ily? Is the han­dling of their re­mains reg­u­lated the same way as those of hu­mans?

Many peo­ple have been raised with dog or cat as the fam­ily pet, and most can clearly re­mem­ber the day the pet passed away. Grief over a pets loss is in some cases no dif­fer­ent from the loss of an im­me­di­ate fam­ily mem­ber.

There­fore, one would think that re­spect of a pet would be ap­plied to it as it is for a fam­ily mem­ber. It is not al­ways that way. When it comes to cre­ma­tion of pets, ve­teri­nary clin­ics of­fer a method of dis­po­si­tion through third par­ties, most of which of­fer a means of group cre­ma­tion or pri­vate cre­ma­tion.

To most, this would be de­fined as mass cre­ma­tion with other pets at one time or in­di­vid­ual cre­ma­tion – one pet at a time. Many, there­fore, would ask the clinic to do pri­vate cre­ma­tion.

As Stephen J. Dub­ner and WYNC re­ported in their pod­cast of 2012 en­ti­tled, “The Trou­bled Cre­ma­tion of Ste­vie the Cat,” some­thing very dif­fer­ent from what one might ex­pect could oc­cur when some­one asks for a “pri­vate cre­ma­tion.”

With pet cre­ma­tion, there is min­i­mal reg­u­la­tion and there­fore al­most any­one can pro­vide the ser­vice. So how does one truly know what kind of ser­vice they’re re­ally go­ing to get?

In the pod­cast, re­porters ap­proached a se­ries of pet cre­ma­to­ries and re­quested pri­vate cre­ma­tion in an ef­fort ot test what would truly hap­pen. The in­di­vid­u­als sup­plied each cre­ma­tory with a stuffed an­i­mal dis­guised in a bag.

In this ex­per­i­ment, each cre­ma­tory out­fit failed the test. All the cre­ma­to­ries re­turned cremated re­mains of “their pet.”

Where did they come from? How could they do this?

What was dis­cov­ered is that al­legedly some pet cre­ma­to­ries have a sys­tem in place af­ter do­ing mass cre­ma­tion, re­gard­less of what the con­sumer re­quested, in which they would take a set amount of re­mains for a larger pet, such as a lab, and a smaller amount of re­mains for a smaller pet, such as a chi­huahua, slap a la­bel on a box and send it to the fam­ily or the vet.

Ev­ery­one got a lit­tle some­thing, no mat­ter what.

The big­gest ques­tion that comes out of this re­port is how can one be sure those cremated re­mains re­ceived are in fact those of some­one’s pet?

The an­swer is sim­ple. Owner’s need to be sure to ask the pet cre­ma­tory — or any cre­ma­tory out­fit — what steps are taken to en­sure this.

Each cre­ma­tory should have in­sti­tuted an iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process at their fa­cil­ity. If not, per­haps one may want to look else­where.

If pet cre­ma­tion through a ve­teri­nary clinic is what some­one’s opts for, then ask the vet what steps are taken to guar­an­tee the re­mains are those of some­one’s pet. Even bet­ter, find a rep­utable fu­neral and cre­ma­tion firm that is reg­u­lated by in­dus­try state law, as those firms must do it prop­erly or risk be­ing closed if state in­spec­tors find vi­o­la­tions.

So what is the fu­ture of pet cre­ma­tion? Will there be new reg­u­la­tions en­acted or are peo­ple go­ing to have to wait for a ma­jor scan­dal such as the one in Ge­or­gia?

Re­gard­less, con­sumers must learn to make the proper de­ci­sions when the time comes to bid a pet good­bye.

Ryan Helfenbein, owner, su­per­vis­ing mor­ti­cian and pre­plan­ning coun­selor at Last­ing Trib­utes on Best­gate Road in An­napo­lis, of­fers so­lu­tions to high-cost fu­ner­als. He can be reached at 410897-2852 or Ryan@Last­ingTributesFuner­alCare.com.

RYAN HELFENBEIN

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