Home Dog Care TOP #62: What Is Dog Cremation and How Much Does It Cost

TOP #62: What Is Dog Cremation and How Much Does It Cost

SHARE

It will be very emotional and maybe even difficult to plan for your pet's passing, but being prepared and ready for when the sad time comes means less stress. One of the options you have is dog cremation, but some owners are still very confused about how the process works.

For one of my longest podcast episodes, I've interviewed Mark Lux of Paris Pet Crematory in Wisconsin to explain everything owners should know about cremating dogs, being prepared for the process and using services of pet cremation. We went into great detail and covered every possible aspect of it, including dog cremation costs, all available options, how to choose the best service and what to look for, and much more.

Listen to the episode in the video above and find the full podcast transcript below. For more, visit this episode’s post on the official Theory of Pets website.

What's Dog Cremation and How Much It Costs
(podcast transcript)

What Is Dog Cremation and How Much Does It Cost

A few years ago, my husband and I ran into an issue that we had never experienced before. We had lost a pet, a boxer that we had unexpectedly, and we live in Maine, which gets very cold and lots of snow in the winter time. This happened in February and the ground was frozen. There was, a few feet of snow on top of the ground. There was no way to bury our pet. We live out in a very rural area. We have a large plot of land that our home is on. We've always buried our dogs and we weren't really sure what to do. Unfortunately, we hadn't thought about this in advance and neither one of us knew anything about pet cremation and we ended up having to discuss our options with our veterinarian.

We have a wonderful vet who we trust very, very much. She has always been very wonderful. She's treated many dogs of ours. We've known her for decades now and so we trusted her judgment on that, but at the same time, our veterinarian worked with one pet cremation facility, so that was kind of our only option unless we wanted to look into things ourselves. We struggled with this because it's a time when you're already going through so much, and the emotions are overwhelming from losing your pet. The last thing that you want to do is add more to your plate to have to do some research and find out about cremation. What cremation is? What places? What crematories are available in your area? I wanted to take the time today, even though I know this is kind of a terrible topic that nobody really wants to discuss in advance.

I really wanted to take the time today to shine a light on this topic and to remind everyone that's listening that it's really important for you to take the time to prepare your plans in advance. Much like we do for ourselves and our human families. It's really important to make some plans ahead of time. If your plan A is to bury your pet, which ours has always been, make sure that you have a backup plan. What happens if you can't bury your pet? What happens if something comes up? It's an inappropriate time of the year or maybe you move somewhere or the homeowner’s association that doesn't allow it or you move somewhere where it's against city ordinances. There's lots of reasons why you might not be able to bury your pet and cremation is another option for pet owners. It's something that I feel like a lot of the pet parent community isn't educated about.

There are options when it comes to cremation and I know as I mentioned, this is a more of a topic that nobody wants to discuss, but I took the time today to speak with Mark Lux. Mark is the owner of the Paris Pet Crematory and they are located in Wisconsin. He took the time today to talk to me about cremation. Let us know what it is, the process that your pet's body is going to go through. I think for me, that was one of the biggest questions is, I had never had any experience with humans or pets. I didn't know even what it was and what options are available for pet owners. Mark talked to me today about it and I asked him to just start out by talking a little bit about himself and how he actually got involved in this business.

Interview with Mark Lux

Mark: My name is Mark Lux and I started Paris Pet Crematory in 2002. I have been in this business for just over 15 years. I've been married to a veterinarian for 23 years. What got me started in this actually was when one of my first pet as an adult, my first dog as an adult passed away and with my wife being a veterinarian, of course I took my dog, his name was Bubu, was at her facility or vet facility and I asked, well, what are our choices? What do we do going to do now? I believe that it was also in the winter months. We do have quite a bit of acreage and we had one greyhound already a buried there, but that wasn't an option, so she introduced me to the cremation. She said, “Well, we have a company that we work with and they come by once a week and they'll pick up the deceased pets and then I'm in a couple of weeks, they'll return the cremains.

That's what we chose to do for our dog, and two weeks later we received the cremains back, but that really got me thinking about it. I was there one time, I was at her vet hospital one time when the cremation facility came by and I saw that they had a large box truck and the back was ted, all these black bags that, that obviously had pets in them. It was pretty full, and it didn't seem like a pleasing thing for a pet owner. I thought of pet owners really knew that that's how their pat was being transported, that they wouldn't opt for that choice. Then the, and then the facility, the cremation facility, the truck left out her driveway and then headed into town into Kenosha instead of going the direction where they came from, where they're located at.

I thought that, then I started connecting dots and saying, “Well, I get it now they're driving around to all the vets picking up all these pets, and then at the end of the day they had back to where they came from and start the cremation. That's how I got into it. I thought, there must be something. This has to be able to be done better. That's what I did. I decided that we wouldn't come around just one time a week and uh, we would come two times a week, so we could use a pickup the pets and have them returned a quicker. Within four days we have the cremains returned and we would hand deliver. I remember when my dog was cremated by another facility, they ship the cremains back to the hospital through UPS and I remember opening the box and there were these pack gene peanuts and then this pin inside that had the cremains.

I didn't want to do that. I thought shipping remains was not really a good option. I just thought was a little disrespectful. We implemented that we would handle liver them and they would not be in a shipping box. They were in a row panel bag. There's just things like that that I decided that we would do that would be more than a pet owner would want, like myself, where you're not waiting so long to get your pets cremains back. It could happen a lot quicker and therefore you could get some closure quicker than two weeks later after you thought about, you think about your dog a little bit, but you're going to start to get over the pain and then all of a sudden here comes to this package and that your pet's remains, and then you just start everything all over again.

That's why I started it. The pet cremation business and we wanted to do things different and I didn't want to be an industrialized facility that had multiple cremation units with a bunch of employees and a bunch of trucks running all over the state, which seems to be how a lot of cremation facilities operate in my area. That's what we did, and we've been over the 15 years, I would say that what I have noticed is in the beginning when I started it seemed that veterinarians were more interested in the service aspect of it. How we came to the hospital twice a week and how we had uniform personnel. We drove a nice vehicle. I didn't have a big box truck. I thought that just didn't seem right.

There seemed like there needed to be some type of a transportation if that for pets that could be a little more dignified than that. We purchased a Mercedes Sprinter Van, which I thought had the class to it, maybe more like a funeral home would have for a relative that passed. We did that and then I would say probably, maybe in the past 10 years I've noticed that veterinarians are starting to get away from concerning themselves with this service of the cremation facility, but more with the cost of it and the cost being low. We would have some customers that may be, would be 30 minutes away from us and then they would switch to a cremation facility that would be two and a half hours away from them just because the price was half the price.

Things that I thought was amazing that somebody could actually do the cremation for that low of a price yet still make a profit and stay in business. That's one thing that I would think that is important to pet owners is they need to pay attention to that. I've noticed with the veterinarians, they used to be run by the veterinarian themselves would own the practice and maybe have a couple other veterinarians that are partners with them with the practice and it's really picked up steam now, but a lot of them in the past 10 years I would say are starting to be purchased by corporations that own many hospitals across the country or in North America. I relate that to the fact why they're looking for a low-cost cremation is the fact that they're going to be selling their business and they want to maximize their selling. The amount they get for selling their practice, so they want their books to look good and they're looking for a less expensive cremation.

Samantha: Yes. You and I had talked briefly before the interview too, and I told you that I had one experience with pet cremation and I think you're right. To me and I had mentioned to you that, we worked with a vet, the same that for many, many years, a couple of decades now, and she's a wonderful woman and she– It's a small vet clinic, she's the only vet there. She hires some wonderful tax that really care for your animals. We've had animals put to sleep there and our veterinarian and her staff are in tears because they've seen these animals for many years and they love them too. We are very connected to her and I trusted her when she recommends that place for us to have our pet cremated, and so I trusted that she would choose a place that would care for the animals the way that she cares for them and her vet practice.

We had a lovely, wonderful experience. Obviously, you never want to have to do it, but when it is time to do it, you may want to make sure, like you said, that they're not just picking up your dog and throwing them in a box truck and mailing the remains back to you in a couple of weeks. That's very impersonal. I think you had a great point when you mentioned that, you had those two weeks and you have had some time to wrap your mind around it and process it a little and you're starting to feel a little better and then all of a sudden, the UPS man shows up with your package and it just makes everything so much harder all over again. I think you had some good points.

Now that obviously I'm working in the pet industry and I've learned some more about it. I think it's not just the pet industry, everything in our society now, but a lot of people are looking for just price cost. It has to be as low as possible to make as much of a profit as possible. I think when it comes to something like obviously veterinary care for sure, and cremation as well, maybe spending a little bit more, but you're getting a better experience, it's making you feel better in a time that you're feeling really down and devastated if you know you can have somebody that seems like they really care about your pet and your loss, that makes a world of difference.

Mark: Yes, it does make a difference. We like to partner ourselves with veterinary hospitals that are well run, that look nice, they're clean, that have good staff that have good google reviews and that thing. We'd like to partner with those types of people. We always know a good veterinarian hospital when they want to come and visit our facility because for as long as I've been doing those very few veterinarians want to come and even see where they're sending the pets too, what type of facility? Does it have enough equipment to operate?  That kind of thing just to get a feeling for the setting. You would think that it would be more important some that veterinarians, but it's not. Let me tell you this though, the veterinarians when they go to the, I don't know what their syllabuses nowadays, in school, but when my wife went to school, they didn't teach them anything about cremation.

They knew nothing about cremation and she knew nothing about cremation. She knew this facility came. There were three options for you. They had an urn book where you could choose an urn and they knew that the pet would be shipped back to them in two days. That was really the standard for the area for many years. Now you're seeing that the pet cremation industry is growing just like the human cremation is growing. There's of the information we looked up, we found out that there's $800 pet crematories in North America. It's growing on both sides, but when I started getting into the business and understanding it and then telling her like you were to see, you asked, you said about the third option or the second option. You didn't know what it was? I'm going to guess that you were probably talking about what we here at Paris call a partitioned cremation.

Across the country they're called different things and even in the same state, they call them different things. They might call it an individual cremation, a separate cremation. We even have a competitor not far from us that calls it at a private cremation when there is more than one pet in the cremation chamber. They consider the word private meaning while you're getting your cremains back, that doesn't, they say it doesn't have, it need to be just your pet in the cremation chamber. When you start to look into the, and if you did research, even across the country on pet cremations and looked at their definitions, you would see that there's not a standard and they're all over the terminology is what they call them.

Some of them even might avoid calling them anything and call them a package, the sunset package or the Rainbow Bridge package or something to that effect. One thing that I think it's important for all of your listeners to understand is that is the terminology, and the vagueness. It's been very frustrating for us in this business when we look around and see a lot of competitors that don't explain what they're doing or on their cremation forms that the client themselves will read and sign, add an emotional time on top of it are vague. They might use words like privately placed within a compartment in the cremation chamber, and truly what does that mean? Privately placed within the compartment and the cremation chamber. These cremation chambers do not have compartments in them and most of the information that cremation businesses have, we used the same retort, which is a creek cremation unit.

We use the same retort that a funeral home would use for human cremation. The same size and if you want to envision the inside of it, it's really just slightly larger than a coffin is. The only thing different with, in the pet industry, instead of having one burner in the retort that the humans that they use for humans that would come down on the chest cavity of a human, in pets we use tube burners in the cremation chamber on the ceiling. The reason for that is in our pet cremation to industry, they will do things such as the partition or the separated or segregated or whatever the term they want to use, but that's when there is more than one pet in the cremation chamber during cremation, which of course is more efficient because you're getting more done in the same amount of time and it can be done where you can place a metal barriers or firebrick or just space itself if you keep the pet spaced far enough apart where you can do multiple cremations in the cremation chamber and still retrieve each pet's ashes or cremains, in the industry they're called cremains. You can still retrieve each pet's back and return them to the owner.

Maybe I should touch on cremation a little bit. These retorts for cremation are very much like humans and the temperatures reached is the same. Here in Wisconsin, we have to run ours at 1600 degrees Fahrenheit and cremation usually, in some states you can set the temperatures lower or they require it to be higher, but don't be confused if the temperature is higher, let's say 1700 degrees, that doesn't necessarily mean the cremation happens faster because when you're a crem—Just like with any business, if you're a baker for instance, the more cakes you can make in a day and sell, the more profit you would have.

Of course, we're all cremation facilities would want to move as fast as they possibly could. We would always want to turn our temperature the highest, if that actually helped get the cremation done quicker, but that actually does not. Then when it comes to cremation, it's the high temperatures that are removing all the moisture from the body and reducing it down to just its skeleton. Even the bone marrow is gone, so the bones are hollow and they're very fragile and they're also a very sharp eye as they break the pieces are sharp, so we would sweep out the remains of a pet and then and by sweeping them out, we have a long, a brush, a tool that reaches in there so you can keep yourself away from the heat and then you sweep and toward the front and there's a pan in the front. As you sweep them over the edge of the cremation floor, there's a shoot that leads to a pan at the bottom of the unit and all the cremains go into this pan.

Then you take the pan out. Of course, there should be some identification with the cremation. We will hang the identification with a cremation form. We hang that on the outside of the cremation of the retort during the cremation. We also have a lot that we have, right? What we're doing? What pet is? How much it weighed? The temperature of the time that we started the cremation. The time the cremation ends. We keep a very detailed log of everything that we're doing that way and we don't have to, there's no regulation to do that. There's no regulations at all. Then we take the cremains out, take the tag with it and follows that over to the processing station. Once again, it's just like for humans, the bones are sharp, and their jacket and they will be too large to put into an urn. You'd have to have an awkward, odd sized urn. S you put them and it's basically like a commercial blender that breaks down the bone fragments into even smaller pieces, similar to a sand consistency of sand.

A lot of people think it's ash and refer to them as, “I'm getting my pets ashes back,” but if you were to, let's say, open your bag of cremains and try to blow them, they wouldn't blow up into the air like ash does because it's really bone fragment, not ash. The heat and the process just removes the ash and burns it a way and out of the top of the stack, and most good retorts should not have smoke coming out of the top because that would mean that smoke would be particles and in the true cremation, you don't want any particles, so you want to make sure that at the temperature is high enough and everything is being burned, so there should be no smoke coming out of the top.

I know I'm jumping around there, but that's how the process works and that's the temperature that it's at and let me go back to the part where I said there's no regulations. There are no regulations, so what I just told you, what we do may not be what the guy down the street does or somebody in Maine might do, or somebody in Arizona, and there are, from what we have found, there's three states that have some type of regulation or law, but they don't have anybody overseeing it. There's not like some type of regulator, for a farm even, because you're dealing with food that humans will consume.

You have the, I don't know if it's the AFTAA or who gets involved. I know here where we live there, they do have these inspectors come by because a couple of farms were not in very good shape and they were reported, and they ended up being in the news, but there's nobody that comes by and checks on you to see if you're doing things correctly. My belief is even these states, New York and Arizona, they probably have no– The governments aren't going to spend money to have somebody drive around to the crematories and make sure they're looking at their logs and make sure they're doing everything correct. That's probably the biggest thing and something that I would emphasize to your listeners is to pay attention to that fact that even, well for instance, Maine, you don't have any regulations or rules or that sort of thing, and even if you did it, for instance, I don't know if you can recall, but there was somebody, I believe it was in Georgia for human cremations, they weren't even being inspected. When you do human cremations there's a lot more rules involved in a lot more paperwork. That person there, his equipment broke down, and so he was just hiding the bodies on his property until he finally, until somebody figured that out and caught them. That's something that I would always keep in mind is that whatever you read or whatever you see.

I think the best thing for pet owners when it comes to the cremation of their pet, if they really loved their pet and its part of the family. Like most pets are nowadays with families, they are one of the family, but my recommendation would be to definitely do your own research on that and to visit the cremation facility. A lot of people don't do that. They don't look into it and they do. They have developed this relationship with their veterinarian and then they trust their veterinarian to handle the cremation for them. I'm not saying that you cannot trust your veterinarian to do that, but I'm saying you definitely cannot trust all of your veterinarians to do that because that's not their thing. They're not that concerned. As long as the bodies are removed from the hospital and cremains are returned to the hospital, and that's really what's the most important thing to thing for them. After they leave, and how they're handled or what's done as long as there's no complaints, like a client saw a pet being thrown in the back of the truck or something like that.

As long as they don't here have any reason to switch from the facility, then they're not going to do that. I would definitely, like I said, I would research it, look and try to go to the facility. We had a customer here that came here to our place that he was 30 minutes away. This hospital was 30 minutes away and they used a crematory that was two and a half hours away from the hospital and he found out who they were using and then they– He questioned himself, why are they using somebody two and a half hours away, and he told me that when he came here, I don't know why they're using a place that's two and a half hours away when you're just 30 minutes away. Some people are figuring it out on their own because my opinion would be for veterinarians to try to use a cremation facility that's closer, a local to them, similar to humans.

For instance, if you had a relative that died and I had one that died and it was at the hospital and it's up to you to make the arrangements for what funeral home you want to handle the service for you. Then you call the funeral home and then they go to the hospital and pick up the body, take it to the funeral home, do the embalming or whatever you've requested. They handle the whole service for you, and even after the service, they transport the body to the cemetery, and if you have chosen cremation and they have a retort on site, they'll do the cremation there for you. Or they'll tell you what it should tell you, where they're taking your relative for cremation, but we did a burial and they handled the whole thing. They picked up the body from the hospital, then brought it to the crematory, brought it to the funeral home and then took it to the cemetery.

When it comes to pets and a lot of places throughout the states, that's not how it's handled. The veterinarian doesn't hand you a referral card of three crematories in the area here. Why don't you call, make the arrangements? They don't do that. They really are the middleman and often they're adding fees in there for being the middle man and they're choosing the cremation facility for you. Which I just find that to be kind strange nowadays it's 2018 and  I would have thought that by now that it would have, that would have taken a turn where it would be more of a referral service where people would either take the pet to the crematory themselves or have had the crematory come to their hospital and do a pickup.

One thing know that I bet a lot of your listeners, they fall into this category is that they don't want to think about cremation. They don't want to think about that and they don't. They avoid it. Then when the pet does pass away, they're really not sure. The questions you were into ask. And that's ruining the vet tech or the veterinarian gets involved and says, “Oh, you know we have a place that'll pick them up and do the cremation,” and they come you that way and then you're fine. I've been to the pet expo here at the state fairgrounds in Wisconsin. We have a beautiful backdrop of a big Afghan dog there. It's gorgeous, and then we have our logo there that reads, my logo has the word Paris in big letters and then in smaller letters under it says pet crematory.

As people walk by our table, we would have brochures and pens and things like that for them to pick up, and some people would be reading the logo and start reaching for the brochure or the pen or something and they'd see they just see the smaller print pet crematory and their faces with wrinkle up, they make these faces and then turn away and walk away, Now here you're at a pet expo that's going to have everything for pets from the dog foods and treats to bleaches and everything under the sun, but you don't want to think about pet cremation.  You want to avoid it.

Here's your opportunity to learn, to ask somebody some questions that's in the industry and many of these people just want to walk right by and kick that can down the road because they just can't handle it or don't want to think about it, and they're really doing a disservice when you wait to the end and then don't even make the call for yourself. You're letting your veterinarian make that decision, and once again, some veterinarians may be making a good decision for them, but they're not educated in cremation and what it should be like, or what it should be about and how it should be handled. Some of them are getting some type of rebate from the cremation facility or some kind of kickback.

A lot of cremation facilities will do the hospital employees, pets for free and giveaways and that kind of thing to keep the relationship going with a veterinarian. That's something tonight I've never a believer in. On occasion if we have a good relationship with somebody or if I have a special relationship with the doctor or something like that, we would do that for, but for the most part when you give something away for free, then somebody else has to pay for it, and so we just normally don't do that.

Samantha: I agree, and I think when you mentioned that lot of pet owners, I don't think it's necessarily that they don't want to learn and know enough to make the best choice for their pet, but I think, you just don't want to think about losing your pet and how you're going to deal with that. It's just the same, like you said, with our loved ones, we don't want to think about that either, but once we get to a certain point in our lives, we start to think about what is going to happen to us and we try to make arrangements for ourselves or our family doesn't have to deal with it. Obviously, our pets can't do that. I fell into the category of the person who, we always buried dogs. We live out in the country.

We don't have a homeowner's association. We have a lot of land. I never thought that we wouldn't be able to bury a pet until we lost a dog in the wintertime and the ground was frozen and we couldn't bury. I certainly was one of those people that I didn't realize.  I always knew cremation was an option. I didn't know there were so many options, so many choices. I didn't really know what it was.  Obviously, I knew about cremation for humans, but I didn't have a lot of information. When you get to that point and your pet is gone, you don't have a couple of weeks to do some research, ask questions, call different facilities, make a decision. You need to make a decision very quickly. I think, as you pointed out, it's really great for pet owners.

It's a sad thing to think about, but the best thing that you can do to prepare yourself and make things as easy for yourself as possible is to take the time, do the research in advance. Do it when your dog or your cat is young, don't think when they're older that, you have to think about it and, and stew on it, and it's just depressing dual when you get your puppy or kitten. You don't have to think about the sadness. It's just something that you have the information about it and the knowledge and when that time comes, you'll be prepared. I certainly fell into that category. I learned a lot very quickly. But at the same time, we had just lost our dog who we had had for 13 years, we were devastated.

It was such a hard time. Now as we're going through all of that hard emotions, and all of the hard times surrounding the death of our pet, we also have to do all this research and trying to make the best decision and figure this stuff out. It would have actually made it easier on myself and my husband if we had known all of that in advance. I can't stress enough how important that is and I think, for you to talk about going to pet expos and things like that, people don't realize that the information, the resources, they're out there, it's just taking the time and nobody wants to do it, but it is going to be better in the long run if you take the time to do it when you, before you need it.

Mark: Absolutely. Another thing with that like say ahead of time, thinking of these things ahead of time, when people get pets, it maybe their first pet may not go down that way, but normally when you get pets, I've had quite a few pots now in my adult life and, and we already know how long that breeds going to live. We have an idea, okay, we have a dog named Scot, okay Scot It's a little a Jack Russell terrier and we know how about how old she is going to live to, and so you start to plan for that. We have another dog, we know how they're going to live and so in my opinion, people know that when their pet's going to die.

A cat is a little trickier though they can live quite a long time or they can live for a short time, but there are a little bit trickier. Yes, people don't do anything, and then when they come here at the, their pet has passed away and now they're coming here and they're a little scrambled on what they want to do and then we'll have people that will want a paw print or a podcasting of their pat and maybe they want a for clipping or something like that. We will do that for customers, but it just always amazed me like, “Why wouldn't you just do the pop print while you're alive?” It will be a lot easier where they're standing right there. You can do it with them and go, “Hey, I'm going to have this,” even when they're little or middle aged or getting older, but they're not. Here's the time where you can do it when your dog is still alive and you can have fun doing it together and have that. It’s not done but for whatever reason, after death of your pet, now people want the Paul Printer.

They want these momentous to remember their pet by, even though they may have pictures throughout the pet’s life, but yes, a lot of people don't do that, don't think about it. In the end I think some people might get frustrated or be a little disappointed because they didn't get what they want, or they didn't know, they didn't even know what they wanted. You'll see some people that will leave poor reviews on different companies and sometimes I'll read the reviews and think, that's really unfair. That's really on you. You didn't know what to ask or what to look for, what you want, and people don't, but Samantha before we get to get too far here, I think we need to answer the question that everybody has and that's how do I know I get my pets cremains back? That's a huge question.

Samantha: Absolutely.

Mark: That's probably number one in the industry and it's a great question and you can be bamboozled very easily by different wording or different suggestions and that sort of thing. I'll give you some examples for that your listeners should pay attention to. For instance, they have this identification disk that they use at the stainless deal desk. It might have the crematory's name on it, it might have a number on it, identification number, that might have it in his office, and then when after the euthanasia, they may take this desk and take maybe a zip tie and attach it to the pets slag or maybe to the cadaver bag of the pet, and you'll see that and now everybody's got their smartphones.

They might take a picture of it and “Oh, my dog is number two, one three,” and then when they get the cremains back, they'll get their cremains and they’ll have the disc there that looks like it had been through a fire and they feel very comfortable. “Boom. You know, I did it. I got my pets cremains back” but I just want to tell you that, that, that is no determination that you did get your pet back. It's a procedure we do not use because I believe that it can be easily fooled. You can take all, and I don't mean to speak ill of the industry, I just want everybody to pay attention and understand what happens and what can happen because we are so unregulated that you greed definitely gets in the way of some of the operators and it's about the money and not really about doing things ethically.

With that said, back to the ID, the ID disks can be removed at the cremation facility and placed in the front of the cremation chamber and go through the fire, and look Bert and be and come back and not be shiny stainless steel anymore, but be of a darker color, and then you can go ahead and put two, one, three with the dog that you picked up from that hospital. Go ahead and put it with some cremains and send it back to the hospital.

You can easily be fooled by the disc, so don't believe in that. There is probably only two ways that you can be assured that you're getting your pet's cremains back. That also goes with like, your veterinarian for instance, that you trust and you've known for a long time. That's great.W e have veterinarians that really trust us, that have been here, we do their pets for whatever, but to be honest with you, the only possible way you would know that you are getting your back are two things. One, you were there, and you witnessed the cremation or two, you had a video recording of the cremation.

I guess there could be three. You could have a web casting of the procedure when you’re not there, but you’re somewhere else in the world and you were watching it. I think those are the best ways that you can truly be sure that you have your get your pets cremains back because everything else can be fooled. There could be some trickery involved and “hey, it looks,” humans make mistakes. They could have a new operator that hasn't been trained correctly or it doesn't have somebody watching that person or paying attention, make sure things aren't get switched up. One thing we try to do here to avoid that kind of thing is that we have video cameras and a to watch our units, we have one on each of our units and then the camera on each one, so we're able to see exactly what we're doing and if there were any question like, “Whoa, this side? They were getting too many cremains for this little dog or something like that.” It doesn't happen.

I can't remember the last time anything like that happen, but anyway, we do have this video that we can go back on and look and go, “Okay, hey here, here's where he just made the switch, put this back and everything's fine.” Those are good things to have in place to keep them from happening. I think maybe another thing that would be important for pet owners as if they were aware of what their cremations look like and maybe how much cremains they should get back for their pet because nobody knows that, right.

Samantha: Right. I certainly don't.

Mark: Nobody knows how many cremains they should get back for the weight of their pet. There's a lot of different factors on that. Of course, the breed and the bone size and we'll get people that'll have that. We'll have to bring in a little dog, but it doesn't mean it doesn't have to be a little to be a big dog, but it's way overweight. Let's say the dog should be 70 pounds, but it's 110 pounds, and then they will question like, “Hey, he was 110 pounds. It just doesn't seem like enough cremains.” Well, the fat does not turn into cremains or ash or anything like that. You're not getting into the fat back. If your pet is overweight, that doesn't mean that you, if you have a 70-pound lab and in 110-pound lab, that doesn't mean 110 pounds necessarily, the cremains are going to weigh that much more than the 70 pounds.

I have some information here that I thought might be interesting and I'll just run through it real quick and it'll give you an idea of how much do you remain should weigh after cremation. We have a pet here that's 17 pounds and the weight of the cremains is .43 pounds. We have another one here, let's say 26 pounds is .81 pounds of cremains, 43-pound beagle mix, 1.049 pounds of cremains, we have a 55-pound dog, we have 2.55 pounds of cremains, 57 pounds, get 2.63 pounds of cremains. Here's an 83-pound habitude is greyhound and he 83 pounds. We have 3.33 pounds of cremains remaining. We have 103-pound great Dane and we're getting 4.36 pounds of cremains back.
Then here we have 107-pound boxer and we have 2.8 pounds of cremains on that. That's interesting there. You look at the boxer and you're going to say that that boxer or let's say if you're looking at the great Dane know he has a bigger bone structure.

They have bigger, thicker bones, so it weighed less than the boxer, but it had more, more cremains going back. Those are some interesting numbers because what I'm finding a lot of times when we have people that'll bring their pet here and sometimes we will have people that have come from different states. They moved into the area, so they could be people from the area or people from other states. They will bring me their pet and there's a lot of times they got a utility container from there that they went through there that predict cremation and they got a utility container which could be a 10 or a plastic box or something like that and then want to put their pet into, have me put them into an urn and so we'll ask the breed or the weight or something like that at a pet so we can get an idea of what size urn will need and found often is that the people are getting more cremains back than I in my opinion, I believe that they should be getting back and we won't say anything because we don't want to upset anybody, but we'll have people come in and say that it'll be a cocker spaniel or smaller dog even than that, and we don’t know how that  goes into smaller and we can always get into that in our small country woods urn, and then we're trying to do that and we can't do it. We have to go to the next size up. I find that to be very interesting that some of these pet owners with their pets are getting more cremains back than they should. That's something that you should look for.

Another thing with cremains, cremains should be whitish, beige color in most cases. Of course, it depends on what the pet is eating. I've never owned a fair bit, but I noticed from cremating ferrets that there they must have maybe a high iron content diet, I'm not sure, but I do know that their bones are more of a rusty color, so that does vary a little bit, but for the most part, for cats and dogs, their cremains should be kind of an ivory or a beige color, and that would be consistent with a completed cremation versus anything that's black or gray. When you start to see black or grey cremains, then you are seeing a cremation that has not completed. It might be, I don't know you said you're an outdoor person, so you've probably had a camp fires before.

With a campfire, if you, let's say you're going to get a campfire going and then maybe it'll rain or maybe your wood wasn't dried up or whatever, and the fire will stop and that you're going to see a lot of black and gray and in the pile of wood, but let's say you've got a really good fire burn though, and then you all call it a night and come back the next day and you'll see that it's like white. Everything's turned to ash and it's really light, it's not dark. It's very similar with the cremation of a body is that complete cremation will, if you have gray or black, that's still particles that haven't been completely burned, so you would want to have, you would want to look for that beige color in most cases.

The only time that that maybe something like that doesn't happen is if you were to pick one of those cremations where it's more than one pet in the cremation chamber. Some, as we talked about it earlier, they might call it separately or individually or partitioned or some places even do give it to the misnomer of a private area where you would think it would be just your pet, but it may not be just your pet. The reason for that is there might be a pet that might be in the back corner of the cremation chamber and the burner and the flame is not getting to it very well. That might be a cause for where it didn't complete it cremation. When we have those types of cremations, we'd like to take that specific pet’s cremains there and as we sweep them out, we'll put them back in the cremation chamber under the Burger and finished the cremation.

Another reason that you might get some discoloration is if somebody had– There's been times where we've had people zoom bodies and bring them to us for cremation because maybe they're moving, and they wanted to take their pet with them, and then we had an instance up here in Wisconsin just outside of Milwaukee. There was a pet cemetery that closed down and it was actually, they actually had Jayne Mansfield's dog buried there. That's an interesting tidbit of information, but they closed down and people were looking for options. What do they do with their body? These pets, they were exhuming them and bringing them to us for cremation. In that instance, we have done that before. Yes, it is it is, wow, and we don't like doing that, it’s not pleasant on our end at all, but the–

Because, and I'm talking about the pets from this cemetery because usually in a container that is fiberglass or plastic or something like that and it took on some water over time and it's just not pleasant. Other people, homeowners that have buried their pet, a lot of times that works out okay, but we always tell people that when we do that, I think it may even be on our website that when you get those cremains back, they're often going to be a darker color. They're going to be maybe of a say, a darker sandy brown color, not really the beige, but darker than that. I don't know, but I'm definitely not educated in that area, so I don't know what that's cause is from. Is from being in the ground for a while? I don't know. We’ll often tell them true that you may get more cremains back then than normal, we might give you larger containers back because some of it will be earth that is in with the body too, and when you burn ground, at least Wisconsin Brown, it's a brown color when you're done and it does remove all the moisture from it, so it is more of an ash, but we’ll have that mixed in with the cremains and it's too time consuming to try to pack every little bone out, so we'll just use a couple of containers, maybe instead of one single urn for that pet. Those are things that you– Well it’s interesting and that can be done, so if there's listeners that have their pet buried, they could still do that, but I would check with the crematory first, we'd like people to call and give us a heads up because we want it to be able to do that cremation as soon as they get here. It just works out better for us if that's how that happens. So that's a possibility.

Samantha: Yes absolutely. That's understandable. I would definitely want to encourage people to call ahead first and make sure they can get you right in. Just as a curiosity question, I know you mentioned that the units that you use are about a little bit bigger than a coffin, they're the same ones they use for humans. So, people that, you mentioned ferrets and smaller pets and of course we know cats and dogs, can you have larger pets cremated like a horse for example?

Mark: Our unit will not be larger for a horse. There might be some people that would want to dismember the horse to do that, but I certainly would never do that. We're not set up for a horse. We have been able to help out the locals do with some of their animals. One time we were able to do a lion for them. Yeah, it was really cool. I had huge paws, just awesome.

Samantha: Wow. Yeah.

Mark: Then we did a, we had a client that had a horse that had given birth to twins or two babies at one time and only one out of 10,000 of those make it and, and they didn't. We did these little horses and we have done miniature horses also. We do, we have been able to do some of the goats and quite a few years ago, there used to be a big craze here in America with these potbelly pigs.

Samantha: Yes.

Mark: Yes. Everybody, all got to get a potbelly pig and well, they got fooled and they weren't little miniature potbelly pig. They turned into be really big pigs. We've had to do some of those to where they'd be over 200 pounds. I think our limit would probably be about 300 pounds for an animal. You also, Samantha, you were asking about costs too. Then this is certainly going to vary by the type of service that you get or maybe the area, what region of the country you're in, that kind of thing,  but for us, we and usually when it comes to cremation of pets, unlike humans, I shouldn't say this because I think with humans, I think there's a set cost, but I know we have a big obesity problem in the country and these human crematories are having real difficulty cremating these obese cadavers because they're fat.

You have to remember really as a fuel. It's a greasy fueled that causes, what it does is it causes situation where you can't control the fire, and with cremation, you're basically controlling that fire inside of that retort. It's important that you do control it because once you're not controlling it and the fuel inside controlling it, that's when you're in trouble. I know that's human crematories their insurances going up because more and more of them are catching on fire across the country because of that problem., so I do believe that they're adding fees on for once you reach a certain weight over that they're charging more, but generally in the pet industry it goes by weight, the weight of the pet and that because I'm more the wait the longer the cremation takes. Yes.

Everybody's breaks it down differently; some people will go zero to 20 pounds and in different categories. I don't like to have a bunch of little categories. We've separated it. We go to 35 pounds and then 75 pounds, 100 pounds in 150 and so on. We start our prices here for a communal cremation, which would be where you would not get any cremains back. They would be spread on site. We have a three-acre memorial garden here that we spread the remains of pets that do not go back, are starting fee for that is $103, and then a private cremation where it would just be your pet only in cremation chamber and that would be up to 35 pounds is $183. Then we also do offer on attending probation where you're here for the cremation and the fee for that is quite a bit more, it's $333. Let me explain a few things on that.

First of all, the communal cremation, a lot of people that do choose that cremation, if they're, let's admit it, we're not all the same. We not all have the same feelings toward our pet. Some people may have their pet as a working, part of the farm or a work dog or a watch dog or whatever. Their bond is just different than maybe your and my bond might be with our pets, but at the end of the life they were just looking for an easy disposal of their pat, and so they may choose the community. Then also there's other people that that may not know what they would do with the cremains that if they had them back in and maybe they're an older person and they don't want to burden family members of trying to figure out what to do with these remains, although many people request to have them put in their coffin with them when they are, when they're buried.

Anyway, some people do choose that communal and some people don't really care what happens to the cremains after a communal cremation. I should explain for your listeners that the communal cremation would be multiple pets in cremation chamber on top of one another. There's no form of division of the bodies and they're all cremated together. That process usually takes about five hours of that cremation. Some people don't care, and they really wouldn't care if their pet's cremains were land-filled and other people do care what happens to the communal cremations afterwards. As long as I've been in business, I've never thrown any cremains in the garbage. We've always put them on and spread them back on earth to, as their final resting place. We've always done that.

That's one thing that you want to know for people that do want to do the communal but really liked the idea of the memorial garden is that you would need to ask your crematory, where are they scattering or how did they dispose of the ashes because that's another thing to look for that's very vague with many crematories, they'll say they have different words they like to use. They'll say a piece of land designated only for the spreading of pet cremations, but they won't give you an address or another good trick is cremated remains are spread in a private farm field and Southern Wisconsin, but there is no address to these places and that makes you wonder, is that really the truth and why can I get an address or because personally I don't know any farmer that would want to take on a bunch of remains because they're not good for the earth if you keep spreading them on the same plot over time because of they have a high sodium content and calcium content. Sometimes during the cremation and you'll see a real bright, kind of almost a fluorescent green, not the fluorescent green like construction workers were, but like a keel green and that's calcium after the cremation.

Yes, so what we do is we spread them, we take the cremains and we mixed them with a product that neutralizes that the high sodium contact and calcium and makes it safer for the environment and safer for the earth. That's not super necessary to homeowners. They're taking them home to spread cremains unless, because they're probably scattering them in a lake or by our cabin or something like that. It's not as though they hit the ground and everything around it dies. That's not the case at all, but if you were to keep doing it over the same area over time, you would see that the things would change. The plant life would be different. and it would get to a point where it would not look good. That is something that we do and I know there's products out there for people that have even had their pet cremated or a friend or relative cremated that they can mix it with this material and then put it in a plant or, and then plant a tree or some type of plant that they want to remember their loved one with. That's with the communal cremation.

With private cremation, we call it a private, I'm not sure. Look, I will often refer to it as single pet cremation because of the fact that some people are using private, but it's not really just your pet and that gets confusing. I personally wish there was some regulation or some methodology that everybody could get on the same page, so it's not so confusing to pet owners, but at the same time, I believe that's intentional that it's confusing to pet owners. Also, you heard me mentioned the attendance price. You probably questioned like, wow, wow, that's quite a jump in cost. Well, and we've had that question from different pet owners that when we give them our prices they're like, “Wow, how comes that’s so much?”  Then they can start to think that you must be cheating and now if we want to see that we're certain we're getting our pet back, you're really charging me for it, but that's not the case at all.

The real reason is when it comes to an attended cremation, we have to take the retort and not then use it for probably two hours prior to the cremation. Sometimes longer, because we have to let it cool down. For instance, when I cremate my own pet, I'll have the unit very cool, where I can place his body in there, and then I'll shut the door, and then turn the time up for a little bit longer than it really needs to be and that's because it's my time and I don't want to open it. I don't look, I just let the cremation go and then I come back later and then I open the door and then I sweep the cremains out and that's because I have a bond with that pet and, and memories attached to that Pet, and I certainly don't want the memory of my dog on fire.

Samantha:  Of course.

Mark: Right. Of course, it makes sense, but if you were to bring me your pet and this is of course your pet that I don't know because I do have friends that bring me their pet that I know, and I'll cry too because I'm like, “Man, that's so sad. I love that dog too.” If I know the pet, if I have any relationship with the pet, let's put it this way, I'll often cremate it like I would cremate my own pet, but I don't know the path. Then I can cremate it like a cremation operator should, where your cremating the pet and when that one's done you place another pet in the cremation chamber. Then when that's done, you know, you just keep going like that. I don't do that. When attendance come, I certainly can't push your pack in there and have him, boom, blow, blow up in flames and while you're standing there, that's certainly not what you would expect, and it might frighten you and give you a bad memory, so that unit for attending cremation that will sit, and it will be running.

It's not sitting off, it'll be running, it has a blower on it that sucks air through it, but no burners that are on, so we're trying to cool that unit down. Somebody that wants to do the attendance, the reason for that cost being higher is because our unit is sitting there not being used for two hours prior to your cremation, and then depending on the length of the cremation, let's say you had a cat, maybe the attending cremation would take approximately an hour and then we're going to try to cool the cremains down as fast as we can so we can sweep them out of the process then and then place them in a polybag. We don't want the poly bag to melt so we can't have the cremains too hot and then we'll place them in a velvet bag and then in the arena of your choosing and then you're ready to go home at the same time. That's really the reason that that cremation, the attendant cremation costs more is because we have that loss of production and we're still running the unit while we're trying to cool it down.

I think one other thing that I want to mention, one thing I would say to your listeners and anybody that really, they consider their pet to be a family member and they want to do the best things they can do for them is to certainly do your research on your own, visit to a crematory, you don't have to, you could set up a specific appointment for, or maybe you're in the area or you're out that way where the crematory is, you give them a call and say, “Hey, can I stop in?” I think that's a good idea for people because you need to. You should meet the people that are going to be handling this for you and get a feel for them. Can you trust them? Are they kind of creepy?  Or are they upselling you constantly?

Those things I think you should look for, and you should also look for– Some of the things we would call red flags would be the intentional vagueness on websites, concerning the pet cremation procedure. I don't think there's anything too that should be hidden really. There's some things that are not pleasant and not everybody can handle it. Maybe like those warnings when you're, if you get some music as that explicit lyrics logo on it or if you're listening to radio, there's going to start talking about something that might be a little pause and for everybody to warn you and give you a heads up, so you can, remove your children from the room or whatever. For the most part, I don't think we should be hiding anything. Any cremation facility you talk to should be very transparent and be willing to tell you anything about the step and not trying to hide anything or talk you out of some question you're asking.

I think another thing that's important is if your veterinarian, did choose a cremation facility for you, I would always concern myself with the distance it is from the vet hospital. We’re in a very populated area here between Chicago and Milwaukee. There's a, I don't know, there's maybe five or six crematories here and I just think always suspect, when your veterinarian is sending your pet, where you got to drive by three crematories to get to the one that they're sending it to them. There's got to be some reason for that distance and that’s what I would try to find out.

Another thing that we talked about on the communal cremains is trying to get an exact location for that if that's something that you're concerned about. I think on our website we have the GPS coordinates of where are our garden is. You could google it in Google maps and see right where it's at, and we already talked about receiving back too much cremains. That's why I went through though those pets that we just recently cremated and we gave you an example of how many remains you should get back. I would imagine there's probably some crematories out there that would do something like a communal, and then give everybody some cremains back.

Matter of fact, being in the business for 15 years, I've had people ask me that, “Can you just do a communal and I'll just take some of the remains back?” And I said, “Well no, we don't do that, and I can't do that for you because the other people, what do you think they are going to do? Their cremains are going to the memorial garden and I can't feel good about letting you take some of their remains home because they're all commingled, and I wouldn't be able to decipher who's or who's?” There's probably some operations that do that, and I'm certain that there are some that in this country definitely. I'm sure there's cremation facilities that cremate, do a communal cremation on everything and then give them out and sell them as privates or partitions or whatever because that's where you get some of these super low-ball prices that we're seeing. I've never, you know how you've heard the same scene where prices always go up and just like taxes, they never come down and this is one industry actually where, the competition gets so greedy that the price is actually dropped, and I've never seen anything like that before.

The one last red flag that I would want to touch on is, which is really, really pretty important I think is when you're checking out a place to look for a lot of logos on their website. They got BBB, the Better Business Bureau or for EPA for Environmental Protection Agency or different industry associations. On their website, maybe they'll have the logos on the bottom or whatever. I think that is the biggest bamboozle out there. People are getting fooled by that. Those logos mean nothing. That doesn't mean they're unethical, upstanding operation. That is not the case at all.

The Better Business Bureau called us if we want to give them $40 a month, we can put their logo on our website. I actually joked with them and said, “Well, you should pay me to put your logo on my website now me pay you.” There's that and then there's this, just like with anything, any businesses out there, everybody has their industry associations that they belong to, whether you're making mechanic or whether you're a veterinarian. For instance, my wife belongs to some veterinarian associations. They have those associations out there, but they don't guarantee that the crematory that is a member of them is doing anything correctly or ethically, I just say, just don't be fooled by those logos. Don't take comfort. Like all while they got this logo, that logo, they must really be on the up and up. I know for a fact that's not the case. Most of those places are pay to play or you pay your fees every year and then you're allowed to use their logo and you get their magazine or whatever and you're invited to their association meetings, that sort of thing. Don't be fooled by that.

Samantha:  I need to extend a big thank you to mark for coming on today. I certainly wish that I had had this information before I dealt with having my dog cremated. I wish that I had known about my options and the different things out there. As I mentioned, I had talked to my veterinarian whom we trust and have worked with for decades now and thankfully we had a really pleasant, very wonderful experience and I actually recommend the crematory that we used, now when I'm asked for recommendations for our friends and family in my local area. Thankfully it worked out well for me, but I definitely was uneducated and, I really appreciate Mark coming on and talking to us.

If you guys have any questions, jump on our website. It's theoryofpets.com. You can send those questions to me. I will try and answer them. If I can't or if you have any questions specifically for Mark, please send them along as well. I will get those to him and he can give you a response to those questions and while you guys are on our website, there is a link over on the right-hand side. You'll see it to jump on and leave us a review on iTunes. It only takes a minute and those reviews really help when I'm reaching out to experts like mark, just to show them that you guys are out there and you're enjoying the podcast and you really want to hear more, so if you could take just a minute to jump on and leave a quick review, that would be great. I appreciate you guys listening and I will be back with another hot topic next week.

PREVIOUS PODCAST: Dogs in the Workplace