When we bring a pet into our lives, it does not take long at all for them to become the apple of our eye, so to say. Indeed, a companion animal quickly becomes a close friend, confidant, and even a wonderful source of comfort. Moreover, a pet is not only an emotional benefit, but can have a positive impact on our physical health as well. This is especially true for larger animals, such as dogs, that require a daily dose of exercise in the form of walks, or perhaps, just simply running around a park, playing fetch. This plus is certainly not exclusive to our K-9 companions however, as exotic pets can also bring a set structure into our routines, when we feed and care for them. Regardless of the pet type, a pet is a treasured and irreplaceable companion that we come to rely on for emotional support, which makes the loss of a pet all the more difficult. The loss of a companion animal affects everyone in different ways, of course, so the grief that we experience is different for all of us. While this is true, it is important to let ourselves experience the emotions that are brought on by this grief, for healthy healing. It is not uncommon for pet parents to feel they must suppress the grief, and many do not allow themselves to properly mourn the loss of their companion for fear of scrutiny. The fact is that the grief we feel from the loss of a pet is just as valid as that of losing a close friend, or even relative, as a pet serves as a constant of love, companionship, and comfort in our lives. With that said, it is no wonder why we feel such a great void in our lives - and hearts - when our best friends must depart our world. One of the most important initial decisions that we must face when losing a pet is how we are going to handle their disposition.
While burial has long since been the tradition associated with the disposition of a companion animal, cremation is become more and more sought after, and for good reason. Cremation can simplify the handling of a pet after their passing, and often, families need only give their veterinarian the ok to get the process started. Cremation can also be ideal for individuals who are not physically able to handle the pet to inter them, as well as offer a number of ways to create tributes, or memorialize, the companion. Many find that interring the ashes brings a great sense of comfort, in the way only a traditional remembrance can. Others utilize pet cremation urns to create unforgettable memorials of their lost companions, which are ideal for those who are not able to inter the remains, or scatter them. Statistics are hard to come by, but pet cremation is thought by many experts to be, by far, the most common form of disposal of a deceased pet’s remains in our day and age. This assumption comes because local laws in many states outlaw traditional burial of an animal except in a specially licensed pet cemetery. This is especially true for pet owners who live in an apartment complex, or any other land that is not their own property. It is also illegal in many municipalities to place a deceased pet into a trash receptacle to be taken to a landfill. Because both of these practices do still continue, despite prohibitions - and because the practices, even where they are not illegal, tend to be shunned by society - it has proven difficult for any group to adequately estimate their prevalence today. So, accordingly, we have no official record of just how common the other alternative - and in turn - pet cremation, is today. Simply put, chances are very strong that, when your pet passes away, a pet cremation service will be employed - if not by you, then more than likely by your veterinarian or by your municipal animal control department.
Pet cremation has become such common part of today’s life that, well, some trouble has erupted in recent months and years because of the tendency for many to take it for granted. Here are some examples:
In the spring of 2008 a company near Washington D.C. generated some unexpected negative publicity for itself (and for the United States Military) because it offers pet cremations as well as human cremations. The company had been following this practice for years and had suffered no complaints. (To be clear, it’s important to note that the pet and human cremations were never conducted simultaneously or in the same facilities.) And, in fact, the company had developed a reputation sufficient enough for it to win a contract to cremate the bodies of American soldiers who died in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But then a military officer arrived at the company’s office to conduct routine business related to that contract noticed a sign advertising the pet cremation part of the company’s business. The man began immediate steps to end the contract, and, when the idea became well known that American troops were to be cremated by a company that also offered pet cremations, even the U.S. Secretary of Defense offered a heartfelt, nationally televised apology.
This just goes to show that pet cremations have become such a common part of life in the United States today that it took years for a complaint to erupt that pet and human cremations are done by the same company. In fact, even after the apology from the U.S. Defense Department, hundreds of companies across America still continue to offer cremations for both pets and humans, and they have no plans to change that.
Taking pet cremations for granted has also turned into a problem from a consumer perspective. In many cases today, when a pet dies, its owners think very little of what will happen to its body. A veterinarian or animal control worker simply whisks the body away, and that’s all that concerns the owner. This late of concern for what, exactly, happens to a pets body makes the pet cremation industry ripe for unethical and even illegal behavior from unscrupulous business people.
Stories abound of pet cremation facilities simply tossing animals into dumpsters and then returning dirt to pet owners as “ashes.” Or in some cases, animals are cremated in mass, their ashes mixed together and returned to the owners in individual containers - as if the animals had been cremated separately.
In light of these problems with pet cremation, consumer advocates now suggest that people with a strong interest in assuring that their beloved pets are properly cremated take steps to protect themselves when dealing with pet cremation companies. We will end this article with a few of the suggestions:
First off, asking your veterinarian if they can make any suggestions as to good cremation businesses will point many in the right direction, especially for individuals who have seen the same vet for any number of years. When contacting the cremation company, make sure you get a clear description of what service you are actually paying for. Ask if you can witness the cremation. (Even you don’t intend to do this, just asking the question can help identify bad apples in the business. All reputable firms should be wiling for you to witness the cremation.) Also ask what sort of identification procedure does the company use to assure that remains returned are, indeed, their pet’s remains? Often, a quick internet search will often result in reviews of many companies (especially those of good standing) from previous customers who employed their services, and these honest testimonials can be a wonderful insight to their services. In general, good common-sense, questions are a must when planning for a cremation of a pet.
While this process may seem arduous, it is truly not as difficult as one may make it out to be. A few phone calls or in person visits are all that is necessary to make sure your pet is receiving a dignified and appropriate disposition. Once the process is over, one is able to dispose of, or memorialize the pet's remains in the way that they see fit. Memorials.com offers a variety of excellent options, in the form of pet grave markers and cremation urns, to create remembrances that are as unforgettable as the remarkable companion to be memorialized.
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