Pet Cremations…..What you Should Know!

Our topic of interest today is pets. More specifically pet cremations. We get asked so many questions about this everyday. The answers we give to these questions sometimes confuses people. So, we thought we would do a little information piece to clarify a few things!

Do you know that there is a BIG difference in your choices for pet cremations??  There are some things you need to know!

Our pets have become a huge part of our families! They ARE family! We depend on them to establish continuity in our lives, they give us the will to get up in the mornings, they give us the pleasure of their unconditional love and companionship, and in most cases, they will listen when you just need to talk! (Yes, we talk to our pets! You should try it, it’s good for the soul!)  Your pet…..will Always love you no matter what! So With all of that being said, and since they are members our families, shouldn’t we treat them that way? From their birth until it’s time to say our final goodbyes? They were always there for you, and you,  should be there for them. No, we never ever want to have to say goodbye, but just like our human family members, there will be that time when you will have to let them go….

There was a time in our society when we lost a pet, it was ceremony to take them out to part of our property and in delicate fashion, bury them. Today with the new urban developments being created across the country, that’s typically no longer an option. The choice today steers toward cremation. This allows a little more latitude with where your pet can go. Whether your choice is to keep your pet’s cremains with you or maybe spread the cremains over your pet’s favorite play area.

If Cremation is your choice, there are some things you should know.  There is a definitely a difference in the type of cremation process you choose.  This in it’s self starts the confusion.  Picture this… are at your veterinary professional’s office and it’s time to say goodbye to your pet.  Your emotions are understandably….a mess! You know in your heart it’s the right thing to do.  You know that cremation is your choice of disposition; however, do you really know what will happen? Do you really know what you should know information wise, to make an informed decision?

The purpose of this post is to educate you on that process. What to expect and what you shouldspecifically ask your veterinary professional.  Typically, the first thing your Vet’s staff will ask you is “Do you want your pet’s cremains back?” If you say no, your Vet will more than likely take care of handling everything and hopefully make sure your pet is compassionately and respectfully cared for.  Don’t feel bad if you choose not to have your pet’s cremains returned to you!  Some folks just can’t handle it, and that’s okay…..really! You may also want to ask where your pet’s cremains will ultimately end up, since they won’t be returned to you. Some cremation services simply scatter the ashes in a designated area or they bury them in a designated pet cemetery. (There may be an addition cost for this option) At Legacy Pet’s of Charleston, we will follow your directions if any or we typically charter a boat and scatter your pet’s cremains at sea! But, all of this is your choice!  Let someone know in advance what you want!

However, if you tell your veterinary professional that you do want your pet’s cremains back, to either keep or to scatter in his/her favorite play place, you NEED to ask the right questions before you proceed! I know it’s a tough time and more than likely you’re deeply hurting inside, which is understandable, after all, you just lost a member of your family. But please ask the right questions so that you can make an informed decision about what will happen to your pet.

First, you should know, there ARE NO REGULATIONS REGARDING PET CREMATIONS! NONE!  Many of us think there should be….but there are none! This is why it is so important to ask the right questions.  First thing you should ask: “what type of cremation will I be getting?” Believe it or not, unlike human cremations, there are choices. Humans, by law, have to be cremated in a certain way.  (I will save those specifics for a future post) For the purposes of this post, lets just say that humans have to be cremated alone. No other deceased individuals can be cremated with them. Pets on the other hand, since there are no regulations, can be cremated with several other animals at the same time.  This is typically done to save money (and time) for the pet crematory. It’s true!  A lot of vet professionals won’t even discuss this with you. They just automatically allow your pet to be picked up by the company they work with, have them cremate your pet and then they return the cremains back to the vet’s office for you to pick up.  I truly don’t believe they (the veterinary staff) in any way mean you any harm, in fact I’m positive they are trying to help you.  I do believe, based on personal experience, they themselves don’t fully understand the process, or as we like to say “the rest of the story.” If you don’t ask the right questions, the type of cremation you will get is referred to as a “Individual Cremation” or a “Separate Cremation.”  Here’s where it gets interesting. The verbiage is a very misleading!  If I told you that your pet was getting an “individual cremation”, you would more than likelyautomatically think “Individual” means my pet will be by themselves. Not the case! Not the case at all! Are you confused yet? You should be!  This simply means that your pet will be placed in the cremation machine with other pets and will be separated by one of several methods. The methods used are: Airspace (simply put, they leave a space between the animals). Partitioned (a brick is placed between the pets as a marker. It should also be noted that some crematories don’t even do this simply because the brick gets very hot and difficult to deal with). Metal pans (This means your pet will be placed in a metal pan beside the other animals in the machine. It should also be noted that MOST ALL crematories don’t/won’t used this method because it is difficult to get the air current needed inside the machine to pass around the metal pans sufficiently to complete the process. Plus the temperatures generated inside the machine makes it difficult to work with the metal pans and over time could damage the machine, a very expensive fix for the crematory).

So, what does this mean to you? Well, in lay terms, and as a certified crematory operator, if you choose to allow the “separate” or “individual” cremation process, there is the very very high probability, that your pet’s cremains will be co-mingled (or mixed) with other animals in the machine at the same time as yours! Let that sink in a second. What I’m saying is, when you getYOUR pet’s cremains back, you will probably get at least some, of another pet’s cremains which were inside the machine at the same time as yours.  This is done by pet crematories to save money. Plain and simple. In fact most pet crematories use human sized machines so that they can place more pets in the machine during the cremation process. Saves the crematory money and thus, much higher profits! It’s math!  It cost the same to operate the machine with 6 pets inside as it does for one. There is also the difficulty of tracking which pet is which inside the machine. Now granted, the per pet price to pet owners may be cheaper (at most crematories) and thus more appealing to pet parents. The bottom line is the crematory makes more money, and you probably got mixed cremains! This sounds harsh and it’s really not meant to be. It’s meant to inform you of what may happen.

Now, you may hear from some crematories that the “Individual” or “separate” cremation is effective and co-mingling cannot happen. Folks, I’m here to tell you based on experience, that there is quite frankly no way it won’t happen! Here’s why. I’m not going to get too technical on here, but I want you to picture this. Most people think that a cremation machine is like an oven. Well, yes and no. It is a specialized machine, lined with brick or high temperature refractory materials, designed to withstand high temperatures. The temperatures inside the machine easily reach upward of 1700 degrees. This is so that the machine (retort as we call it) can function efficiently and complete the cremation process the way it was designed. Inside, along with flame there are high pressure fans to circulate the air, circulate heat and to purify the air and/or smoke gases before it goes out into the atmosphere through a pipe attached on the top (chimney). Frankly, what you need to imagine is a brick lined box with an inverted jet engine attached to the top blowing down. I know you’ve seen jet airplanes with flame coming out the back of the engines on television. It’s pretty much the same concept. It creates a tremendous amount of flame and pressure. Now imagine that flame and pressure blowing on a pile ashes. I’ll let you draw your own conclusion as to what happens. Also, to get a complete cremation process, it is necessary at times, to open the chamber door during the cremation process and move the remains around. Sorry to be so graphic, but the truth is the truth! So again, I’ll let you draw your own conclusion as to what happens to anything inside the machine with multiple pets inside. I can tell you from experience, it is all but absolutely impossible not to mix cremains!

Here’s the thing, if you are alright with this, possibly getting your pet’s cremains mixed with other pet(s), then this may be the way to go! Maybe for your own personal reasons you’re okay with it. We don’t judge. I can tell you from experience,when we discuss this with pet parents who have had other pets cremated in the past and they find out that they may not have all of their pet’s cremains at home with them, they typically are not happy! Mainly because they were not informed and they did not get to make that choice!

There is one more option you MAY get from your vet, and that is called  simply a “private” pet cremation. This is where only your pet is inside the machine during the cremation process. This makes for ease of tracking and it ensures that a pet parent gets their pet’s cremains returned to them. In our experience, this option is very rarely and more often than not, never even asked or suggested by your vet. Again, more than likely it’s a cost thing and the fact that they themselves probably don’t completely understand the process.  The cost for a private cremation at MOST pet crematories can get expensive. In fact it can almost quadruple! That cost is around $350.00 (this information was gathered from visiting websites for area pet crematories in our region) The POSITIVE side of private cremation is that you are getting YOUR pet back!

Okay, so now I’ve educated you some what. You now know some of the common terminology you can expect to hear and how a cremation machine works. Now I would like to tell you about who we are and our philosophy. We are Legacy Pets of Charleston, a division of Charleston Cremation Center & Funeral Home. We are a full service Funeral Home. We offer services for humans ranging from cremation to traditional burials. We also have a pet division to assist our pet families. We understand the loss of our human loved ones and we feel the same about our pet loved ones.  Our business was started with our community in mind. We offer a full range of services to assist you in your time of need. But, I’ll stick with pets for now. WE ONLY OFFER 100% PRIVATE PET CREMATIONS, AND WE WILL NEVER FREEZE YOUR PET! Period! The reason is simple, we have a high level of compassion for our families and fully understand the difficulty of your loss and we want you to get YOUR pet back!  All of our services are completed at one location under one roof! Our facilities are not located in an old barn out in the woods!  We don’t want you to have any lingering long term questions in your mine as to whether it’s actually your pet’s cremains in the urn. I can also absolutely promise you, that whether you choose to bring us your pet or we come to you to pick them up, your pet will be treated with the utmost dignity and respect, just as we do our humans!

Here’s the good part, our cost to complete a 100% private cremation is about the same as the other guys “Individual” or Separate” cost! Yes, you read that right! The other guys are pretty much standard across the board on cost for a private cremation. A flat fee of $350.00. An example would be, the other guys charge $130.00 for a “separate” or “partitioned” cremation(remember your pet will be inside the machine with others, with the high possibility of co-mingling) and we charge $140.00 for a 100% private cremation for the same size pet. (by the way, since I didn’t mention it earlier, pet cremation cost are based upon the size of the pet.) We believe it is worth the very minimal extra cost to provide a piece of mind to our pet parents. Don’t believe me? Get on the internet for yourself and see. There are loads of information and horror stories from pet owners out there about pet cremation practices. I encourage you to do the research yourself!  Again, not trying to point the finger at anyone, scare or upset you. What I’ve tried to do is educate you on your options so that when that time comes, you make aninformed decision!

Here are a few Things you need to be ready to ask your Veterinary professional or the pet crematory you choose:

  1. “Can I choose who I want to complete my pet’s cremation, even though my Veterinary Clinic typically uses a particular company?” Yes you can! Do your homework and just inform your vet who You want to use! Either you or your vet can assist you with any company you choose!
  2. “What type of cremations do you offer?” Do the difference in terminology!!
  3. Ask about the different language/or terms they use and what exactly they mean.
  4. How will my pet be returned to me? Or, if you choose not to get your pet’s cremains back, what will happen to them?
  5. Ask if the Vet or any of his staff has ever visited the cremation facility they use!!! We openly invite you, your vet staff, or any member of the public to visit our facility for a tour! By the way, come unannounced!
  6. Ask if they ( the vet staff) FULLY understand the pet cremation process!
  7. Ask if they can guarantee that you will get your pet’s cremains back and not mixed with other pets and how that is accomplished.
  8. Ask what type of tracking system the Crematory uses to ensure you get your pet’s cremains?
  9. Ask if you can visit the Pet Crematory. Ask if you can participate in the process if you want. (I know some folks don’t want to witness this, but some do and it should be an option!) Another thing to be concerned about is if you have to make an appointment to visit the cremation facility. (At legacy Pets of Charleston, you can visit any time. If fact just drop in and say hello if you want and take a tour!)
  10. By all means, just be informed of exactly what kind of Cremation you pet will have and the ramifications, if any, there may be.

That’s all for now! I hope you are a little more informed about what you should know when it’s time to make a choice. If you have any questions, free to stop by and see us any time or give us a call! We’ll be glad to answer any questions or assist you in any way we can!

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