Pet Cremation Demystified. Part 6 of 9
By Patrick Couture
Director of Resting Paws Cemetery & Crematorium Inc.
In this blog I will spend a little more time describing this process as it is very convoluted and industry standards vary considerably. Remember the old saying “You get what you pay for”. This holds true for items made in China: short lived, disposable, unreliable items but we come to expect that for the price we pay. However, when it comes to cremation of pets, the industry is self monitoring and therefore standards are made up to suit industry needs and you don’t always get what you pay for.
Semi-Private cremation is performed with numerous companions being inserted and retrieved INDIVIDUALLY in one chamber. Most providers separate each pet by distance on the hearth and very few use partitions or cremation pans to contain each pet INDIVIDUALLY. See picture 1 -2. In addition, it is OK according to certain international organisations to call this a private cremation. The truth is that this service is cost effective for the provider but it is not necessarily what you want or pay for. When you are offered a service from your provider or veterinary clinic make sure you clearly understand the terms they use. i.e Segregated / ash return / partitioned / semi-private / individual. None of these terms mean PRIVATE: your pet and your pet alone in the retort.
The pros for you should be lower cost. You get ashes returned. Safety measures and procedures are in place to minimise mistakes. You will receive a good percentage of your pets’ ashes back. Why good percentage and not a solid figure as with the private 98+%? It all depends on the position of your pet within the retort.
The cons, clients are not notified that cross contamination from other pets is practically unavoidable. Although providers are very careful to properly log the position of each pet in the retort, mistakes can happen. No provider will ever offer witnessing of semi private cremations. I lied, Resting Paws does allow witnessing because we trust our process and stand behind its delivery to our clients.
The pros for the industry: The retort can be used to it’s full potential. If properly performed there are guarantees that a good percentage of your pet ashes are returned. The lower cost appeals to more people and generates more business. With good practices and proper use of identification system, identification errors are significantly minimized.
The cons: It takes a longer time to clean out the retort as each pet is retrieved sequentially. You need to change the container for every set of remains extracted, and potential for mistakes is increased. We don’t know of any provider – other than us – that offer clients the possibility to witness a Semi-Private cremation.
By now I know that this blog will generate some discussions, so I will expand a little more. Some will be a repeat of the above but the hope is that you will have a clear understanding that not all ASH RETURN cremations are carried out the same way.
When presented with the option of segregated / ash return /semi-private / partitioned / individual or any other name variation, this is what makes the difference. Resting Paws uses cremation pans and you can be assured that 98+% of your pets’ ashes will be returned to you. A cremation pan is a stainless steel container that your pet is placed into to be cremated. Note that not many providers use cremation pans as they deteriorate rapidly in the intense heat, are difficult to manipulate when hot and can cause wear and tear on the hearth when inserting and removing them from a large capacity retort. Although not easy to use, we prefer this method and use cremation pans that we designed and had built locally.
Some providers will say that they separate the bodies using heat bricks. This can usually be accomplished on the first few runs of the day when the hearth is cooler. However, as the day progresses, the hearth gets hotter and smoke is generated instantly as pets are being placed on the hearth, which can be in excess of 700 ͦ C. The smoke generated would billow out of the retort while you are attempting to place the bricks. Generally, for speed of placement and to prevent smoke billowing out, most providers will partition / segregate using distance between pets. This is where cross contamination is at its peak. However, with the use of cremation pans, the heat is not transferred instantaneously to the body so there is time to position everyone in the retort efficiently.
Numerous claims are made by operators about cross contamination. Terms such as minimal, dynamic, residual etc. are used to reassure the client and are further reinforced with percentages of ashes returned to you.
You might recall in part 1 the dynamic process when cremating i.e. intense heat and large volume of air moving within the retort chambers. One thing that was omitted and also plays a role in cross contamination is the weight of some pets. Listen to your vet when he/she says your pet needs to lose weight (you are loving your pet to death). For queasy people you might want to skip the rest of this paragraph. In reality fat cells accumulate in pockets and build up over time. When an obese pet is cremated the extreme heat rapidly vaporises the fat cells which in turn explode in rapid succession. The concussion from these mini explosions can move nearby smaller pets and bone fragments.
Lastly, the position of your pet in the retort also contributes to the amount of cross contamination that will be present in your ashes. Larger pets are generally positioned under the cremation burners, smaller ones are positioned at the rear, sides and /or front (usually 20 to 30 cm of separation between pets is acceptable industry standard). When the remains are extracted the closest remains are removed first and the area is swept. The collection pan is changed and the next set of remains is removed. The area is swept passing over the previous one and the process goes on. The last pet out gets the full sweep of the retort. This will be the one with the most cross contamination.
These are the reasons we at Resting Paws bought the second smallest retort. It is large enough for the largest breed of dog and small enough to offer personalized services. We also opted to use cremation pans to ensure a maximum return of your pet’s ashes. We are so confident on the way we perform our Semi-Private cremations that you always have the option to witness the event. Picture 3 – 6 shows the difference a cremation pan makes to minimise cross contamination.
You might also notice other things on our website that differentiate us from other providers. One of the main ones is that they adhere to codes of conduct of various organisation. If you are wondering, why we do not belong to any pet funeral / cremation association it is because they have no jurisdiction in Canada and can do very little to assist a client. As with the United Nations they are a governing body that carries very little power of enforcement. We prefer joining an organisation that is Canadian, that will listen to your complaints or concerns and will not hesitate to publicise them truthfully. I am talking about the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
A final thought, one of my best friends and neighbor asked me when we started out why we would perform a full Private Cremation when clients are not there to witness the event, no one would ever know the difference!!! My reply to him was “I would know the difference”
Albert Einstein describes this the best
“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters”
― Albert Einstein
With a tag line like “Where Memories Matter” we know the importance of everything we do, and we strive to deliver on our promises.