The Final Arrangements For Your Pet
As you prepare to say good-bye to your precious pet, it’s important that you be educated on a variety of the options and information that’s vital at this point.
First of all, as you were responsible for your pet in life, you also have that responsibility in death. Your pet was yours during their life and their body is yours in their death. With that comes the job of knowing that each aspect of their final arrangements are to be at our discretion and should not happen without a pet parent’s consent. To be educated on what your options are is ours to learn and is our responsibility as good pet parents. The final decision of what you want to do is yours – and not anyone else’s. It’s not for your veterinarian to decide for you – nor to tell you what you can and cannot do with your pet. Unfortunately, in many states, pets are looked as personal property. Therefore, for anyone else to tell you what to do with your own property is wrong and unethical.
Educating yourself on the options and having an idea of what you want to do before the loss of your beloved pet will eliminate much anxiety and give you incredible peace of mind. Filling out a Guide To Planning Ahead will guide you through your options and what to look for as you
What questions do I need to ask when looking for a place to help me with my pet’s final arrangements?
It’s important that the organization that you use has the same philosophy in how pets are treated as what you believe in. For instance, will you want to make sure that your pet’s body is not put into a trash bag but is picked up immediately? There will also be other service offerings that you will want to consider:
How and when will your pet’s body be picked up?
Will you have the opportunity for a memorial service or a visitation?
Is there a variety of memorialization items that you can choose from?
When will you get your pet’s cremains returned to you?
What decisions will need to be made for my pet’s final arrangements?
The first question that you will have to ask yourself is do I want burial or cremation for my pet. There are some factors that will influence your decision; such as if you are going to bury your pet, where will the burial be? Some of the areas of consideration with this decision are:
Will this town/county/development allow pet burials?
Will you always live in this area or have access to this burial ground?
Do your religious preferences guide you in one way or another?
Did your pet like the outside or the inside? Will that influence your pet’s final resting place?
Lastly, if you are burying, there is also the opportunity to place your pet in a casket. Many people will use a casket to not only protect their pet’s body but to also protect the ground where the pet is buried.
I’m contemplating cremation for my pet. What do I need to know?
First of all, will you want the ashes returned? If no, then you will want to ask your pet death care service for a group, or communal, cremation. With this, pets will be cremated together with no body separation and no ash return to the pet owner. While many pet death care operations will scatter the ashes over a known area intended for that purpose, there are some organizations that will take the cremains to the landfill. Ask your pet death care provider what they do with the cremains.
If you are wanting the ashes of your pet returned to you, and you want to be assured that your pet’s body is the only one in the cremation machine, request a “private cremation” from your pet death care provider. With a private cremation, pets are cremated alone and are the only body within the cremation chamber. Pet parents will receive their pet’s cremains, and only their pet’s cremains. It’s important to verify with your pet death care provider that your pet is the only body in the cremation chamber during the cremation process.
Some pet death care providers will do what they call a “segregated” cremation. Others will call this process an individual cremation, a communal cremation with ash return, or separated cremation. This is where several pets will be placed into the cremation chamber with some form of separation. At the end of the cremation period each portion of ashes will be removed separately. A certain amount of mixing of ashes, or commingling, may occur due to the volatile nature of cremation.
While this process is being done, it’s vital that as a pet parent, you are asking for clarification on the type of cremation that is being done with your pet. All pet death care facilities should be very specific with what their practices are and you, as a pet parent, should be made aware of what you are receiving. IT’S YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO ASK QUESTIONS.
Many pet death care providers will provide a tracking system for the cremation process of pets through the use of a “tag” with a unique number that will accompany the pet’s body. To ensure the safety, security and authentication of the cremation process, inquiring on this part of your pet death care provider’s policy will give you the peace of mind in knowing about the care of your pet’s mortal remains.
What is some of the most important elements when it comes to pet cremation?
Ask your veterinarian or the cremation provider “How can I insure that the ashes I receive back are of my pet and my pet only?”
If you are arranging the cremation through your veterinarian, ask if they have personally visited the facility doing the cremation.
Tell the cremation provider that you would like to visit their facility. All crematories should have an open door policy and not ask you to make an appointment to visit their facility.
There should be, at minimum, a metal tag or paper tag that will accompany the pet through the cremation process. Ask what the crematory’s tracking process is.
How to have a memorial service or ritual for your beloved pet.
What are other services that could help me memorialize my beloved pet?
Many families will also want to have that one last time to visit their pet after death, a visitation or wake, if you will. While this may seem like a trivial thing – or possibly something that you consider morbid and odd, this one last time with your pet is valuable time spent. A time to see your pet at peace. A time for your children to pay tribute by bringing in items that was special to your pet. A time to begin the grief journey and to say that final good-bye. Many times, other friends, family members, and other pets in the household will want to have their final good-bye with your pet too. Pets touch so many people during their short lives with us. Allow those around you the opportunity to come together, pay their respects, and support each other.
As a family, we celebrated holidays with our pets and always had them as a part of our family rituals. Is it acceptable to do the rituals that are important to us with other deaths in our family for our pets?
Incorporating rituals into honoring your pet’s life is a beautiful way to pay tribute to the life that you shared together. Whether it be a visitation or a memorial service, these rituals are incredibly important in your grief journey and mourning process.
There are other rituals that you can incorporate into honoring your pet’s life. They can look like:
The planting of a tree/flower/bush
Rituals you and your pet did to say “I love you”
A candle lighting tribute
A donation drive for a local shelter in memory of your pet
Reading of special poems and remembrances
Playing audio tapes of their meow/bark/chirp
Sharing videos of the pet and your family
Reading a eulogy to remember your pet’s life with your family
How do I choose the right memorialization product for my pet?
Making a decision on memorialization products is a personal process. This will be reflective of the life shared with your pet, your life style, your personal style, and those items that are reflective of your pet’s personality. It’s also important to take into consideration where your memorialization pieces will go in your home, or in your yard, and how you want the item to look, either blending in with your decor or making an individual statement. In addition, if you have a large pet family, consider a memorialization piece where all of the pets can be together.
Memorialization products that you might want to consider are:
- Rocks or Garden Flagstones – personalized with your pet’s paw and special epitaph
- Jewelry that would have the pet’s own paw print or nose print on it
- An urn that is reflective of your decorating style
- An eco-friendly urn for burial in a special location
- An urn with paw prints to show your love of animals
- A piece of art done to depict the pet’s personality
- A personalized urn made to look like the pet
- A frame to hold a cast of your pet’s paw print, nose print, and locket of hair
- Locket jewelry to hold a bit of the pet’s ashes or hair
- Memorial Note Cards
I want to make the personalization, or epitaph, on my pet’s memorialization pieces very special. Guide me in how to do this.
The personalization of your memorial pieces will truly make them as unique as your relationship was with your pet. From an inscription on an urn or jewelry piece to the saying on a rock or marker, your sentimental words will create a true reflection of the love that you have for your special pet. Hearing other friends and family member’s stories is certainly a wonderful way to reflectively pay tribute to your pet and get everyone involved in honoring their life. Consider thinking about your pet’s entire life, more than just their name and their birth/gotcha date and death date. Reflect on thoughts of your pet and – what makes you smile? Maybe it’s a nickname, or ALL of the nicknames! Or a saying that really sums up your pet, such as “My Little Peter Pan Mixed With Dennis the Menace.” It could possibly also be a piece of clip art that represents a love of your pet, such as a slice of pizza.
Be creative. Again, reflect on you and your pet and the life that you shared together. Create the memorialization and personalization of your pieces to best tell this story.
How do I choose an urn?
There are a variety of urns that are available. The type of urn you select will be an individual decision and one that will reflect the life that you shared with your pet. Urns are available in many sizes, materials, shapes, and colors.
In choosing an urn, there will be a few considerations. First of all, in choosing an urn you will want to think about the personality of your pet. Was your pet colorful, therefore, you would want a colorful piece. Or was your pet very feminine so a girly urn is what will let you honor your pet?
You will also want to certainly think about you and your home’s style. In considering an urn, where will the urn sit in your home? What will be around it? Will you want the urn to blend in or stand out?
And, lastly, do you have other pets where you will want to have a “family urn?” A beautiful option as your pets lived under one roof in life let them all reside together in death in a family urn.
Another option for you to consider is a keepsake urns. These are designed to hold a small amount of cremains or fur/hair clippings. A keepsake urn is also a perfect way to allow family and friends who also may want to have a remembrance of your pet.
Many families will also want to have a remembrance of their pet with them daily. Keepsake jewelry is the perfect vessel to hold a very small amount of cremains or fur/hair clippings. These pieces will come in many different shapes and sizes, in necklaces, bracelets, and in key chains.
What size urn do I need?
The weight of your pet will determine the size of urn that you will need. For purposes of ordering, or choosing an urn, one cubic inch of urn will accommodate one pound of your pet. Therefore, if your pet weighed 30 pounds, then you will need a 30 cubic inch urn. Many families will choose an urn that is much larger, giving them room to hold the pet’s collar, leash, or favorite toy.
Definitions and Standards
for the Cremation of Companion Animals
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.
• Active Commingling: Commingling that occurs between animals during the cremation and/or retrieval process when multiple animals are cremated together at the same time.
This type of comingling can be minimized with effective partitioning but it is impossible to assert that it can be eliminated entirely. This type of commingling cannot, by definition, occur with a private cremation.
• Residual (Incidental) Commingling:
Unavoidable incidental commingling between cremations that occurs despite a best effort to recover all cremains from each cremation. This will occur to varying degrees with any type of cremation. This definition is the minimal type of commingling that occurs even in cremations performed in succession.
(human cremations and private pet cremations).
For the proposed definitions below, state definitions and regulations may preclude members from treating anatomical pet remains as anything other than medical waste. Please check with your state EPA.
Anatomical Pet Remains: A portion of pet’s remains not discarded as medical waste, but for which reverent cremation is desired for that body part, (i.e. an extremity or necropsied head.) and for which reverent disposition is not otherwise forbidden by law.
Medical Waste: Waste derived from the medical treatment of humans, or animals, or from biological research.
Standards for Cremation Procedures
Single Pet “One at a Time”
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,” are 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
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 commingling to a minimum. Commingling 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.
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:
• Completing the cremation expeditiously if cold storage is not available.
• 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.
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.
The 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, will be dedicated to the respectful and dignified treatment of those pets entrusted to us. We will 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.
“If there is a heaven, it’s certain our animals are to be there. Their lives become so interwoven with our own, it would take more than an arch angel to detangle them.”
– Pam Brown