It was a version of Noble, Georgia. Forty-four bodies that were supposed to have been cremated were instead pulled into a field on a tarp and set on fire. A passerby saw the fire and it was extinguished before the bodies were totally destroyed. Family members were called out to identify the partially charred bodies and were given the opportunity to have them properly cremated.

The press released the tragic story. The social media blew up with comments of disgust. The crematory that was supposed to perform the cremation will suffer no consequences for their fraudulent activity. It turned out to be merely a story for the news. Except, that is, for the extended grief and guilt that the bereaved family members were now left to endure.

In another part of the country, a test of pet cremation practices was conducted. Cremation fraud was suspected in a community. To see if the fraud was real, fake animal bodies were sent to three separate crematories with a request for private cremation with ashes returned. In all three situations, cremains were returned when there could not physically have been anything to return. Sadly enough, and quite ironically, the private investigator conducting the test had used one of the crematories a few years prior for the cremation services of his beloved dog. You can just hear the sadness in his voice in the story when he questions “I wonder who’s in the urn that I have at home?”
Again, all three crematories were not held liable for any charges or misconduct (at least yet). Once more, families were left to endure their complicated grief, plagued now with doubt on all crematories and their business practices.

Professionals in the funeral business find these practices disgusting and beyond comprehension. In the pet death care industry, these practices can almost be common place.

Okmulgee, Oklahoma, is where the forty-four pet bodies were set on fire. In New York City, this particular cremation scandal took place and was recently reported on Freakonomics Radio.
Even if you are not a pet lover and don’t understand the relationship people have with their pets, you have to admit that these business practices are wrong. In every sense of the word.

The pet death care industry simply must be better than that.

For human death care operations that are considering making an entry into the pet loss business, you have an even bigger role in making sure that your business practices are top-notch when it comes to handling a deceased pet. One indifferent employee to the grief associated with the loss of a pet or one possibility of cremations not being performed correctly is a sure-fire way to seriously damage the brand that you have within your community. Or, heaven forbid, you have your name associated with one of the above tragedies that took place.
Yes, it’s time that the pet death care industry embraced a new look. Here’s how it should look. Pet parents want to know that you, the subject matter expert on death and loss, look at the death of their precious pet in the same way that you look at the loss of their human family members. They want the same standards of care that you have given to their family. They want the same dignity and respect of that deceased body. They want the same care for their grief. They want the same options, without being shamed because that’s what they want.
They want you to give them permission to do everything they would do for a human family member in honoring the life they shared together. They also want to know that how their pet was treated in the cremation or burial process was ethical, morally correct and done with all of the protection and professionalism that would happen for a person.

This is how to look at the NEW pet death care services:

• Incorporate all of the appropriate paperwork and processes that you would do for the human side in your pet loss businesses’ standard operating procedures. Educate the family on the safety and security of the cremation process.

• Be a process partner and a resource to a veterinarian

• Institute an after-care program for your pet families. Many times, the pet is all they had at home. Furthermore, they may have a support group comprised of non-pet lovers so the bereaved heart may be mourning in private. Let them know that they can turn to you for support.

• Provide an appropriate area for the families to pay their respects to their deceased pet. More than a closet that you’ve turned into a “pet room” and more than the back of the garage that’s now the “pet space.” C’mon, if you are going to service the pet market, service it. You wouldn’t dream of having a less than adequate space to bring a family in to honor their human loved one so why would you have the pet memorial part of your business look like nothing more than an after-thought?

• Professionals that understand the loss of a pet and who will be there to walk with the family. Re-think the process of taking the extra help and having them work in the pet department. Have a dedicated resource to these services.

• Events throughout the year where families can come to honor their pets as well. For the holidays. For National Pet Memorial Day. Give them these opportunities.

• Pet parents do want to plan ahead for their pets, too. A big fear for a pet parent, especially an elderly person, is their out living them. Guide them on pet trusts. Guide them on pre-planning and pre-funding for their precious pets. Be a resource to them.

• Help pet parents in talking to their two-legged children about death. Many times it’s a child’s first exposure to death and parents are looking for help with this topic. Help them.

• Give pet parents mementos to buy when their pets die. Necklaces. Urns. Memorial blankets. Art work. Memorial stones. They want to honor their pet and they look to you as their resource. Give them what they want in an area where they don’t know what they don’t know.

We have a lot of work to do. The new look of pet death care services are here. Pet parents are treating their pets like family members in life and they want to do the same in death. But the recent business practices of Okmulgee, Oklahoma, and New York City have to become a thing of the past. Not only does a grieving human being not deserve this kind of treatment but it’s ethically and morally wrong. Even if it is just a dog.

Because to me, it’s more than that. FBA


Coleen-Ellis-Headshot-Photo-197x300Coleen Ellis is the Founder of Two Hearts Pet Loss Center. If you’d like more information regarding identifying and leveraging both individual and team talents and strengths, please contact [email protected]  or you may call 317.966.0096. You may also visit her website at