The majority of families we work with either contact us via phone or come to us with questions, anxiety and a lack of information regarding the cremation process. This is, after all, an area of the unknown and these families are either about to, or have just lost a special member of their family and don’t know what to expect next. Just as we conduct research or pre-plan for death-care options for our human companions, I highly encourage pet parents to do the same. Educate yourself in advance. By doing so, you are able to make clear decisions without any surprises. Here are some important questions to ask your pet cremation provider.
What are the services provided and where are they performed?
Be sure to ask the crematory what services they provide and where they are performed – ask for details.
Examples of such questions are:
What types of cremations do you perform at your facility? Private vs Individual, Partitioned vs Communal/Community Cremation. Also, have them explain what their definitions mean in plain terms.
Do they perform these services “On Site” or at another location – if another location, where?
What checks and balances do they offer to ensure families are receiving only their pet’s cremated remains back?
What is included in the price?
How long will it take to receive your pet’s cremated remains?
What types of memorialization options (urns, markers, etc..) do they offer and where can you see these?
Are visitors allowed?
Any reputable crematory will have an open door policy. They should encourage their families to visit and ask questions. Transparency is an absolute must in our profession. Regardless of the number of questions you have, the cremation or burial options and processes should be explained until you have the answers you need.
How long will it take before I get my pet’s cremated remains back?
The timeline can vary from same day service (in person) to several days. This depends on several factors, such as where and when the crematory received your pet; Pick up from your home, you bringing your pet to the facility, or through a veterinary clinic. Generally speaking, the entire process should take approximately 2-5 days. Anything beyond this reasonable time frame should be a significant red flag. You may allow for a deviation from this timeframe if a custom urn is being ordered or created. However, even in this situation, your pet can be returned in a standard urn while awaiting the order to arrive.
How long does the actual cremation take?
The cremation process varies depending of the size and weight of your pet. The process can take anywhere from 1 hour to several hours for larger pets. Again, if you are told anything other than this, this should be a red flag.
Can I witness the cremation?
Again, any reputable crematory will allow you to visit with your pet prior to the cremation and “Witness” the pet being placed in the cremation unit and/or when the cremated remains are “Retrieved” from the crematory unit. Please keep in mind that you will likely need to make an appointment for this type of request so make sure you contact your cremation provider if this is something you are interested in doing.
What kind of certifications or professional designations does the crematory have?
As with any profession, a reputable crematory will seek out certifications and continuing education for itself. By obtaining professional designations and undergoing training through reputable agencies & organizations, the crematory is displaying their commitment to maintaining best practices in their profession. There are several agencies that provide specific designations, definitions, and certifications for pet cemeteries, crematories, and funeral homes. These are: The Professional Pet Loss Alliance (A subgroup of the International Cemetery, Cremation, and Funeral Association) and the International Association of Pet Cemeteries and Crematories. Members of the PLPA and IAOPCC must adhere to specific codes of conduct and perform there services to the highest levels in their industry. You can find a local animal cremation service through these agencies at the ICCFA and IAOPCC Websites:
What types of memorialization items does the cremation provider have available?
Many crematories will have a standard package or “Service urn”. There should also be additional urns, jewelry and memorialization items offered in order to uniquely honor and memorialize your pet. The opportunities to memorialize your pet are endless so be sure to ask!
What happens to pets that are communally cremated? Where are the cremated remains scattered?
A crematory should be able to give you specific answers with regards to location of where these cremated remains are scattered.
Does the crematory service have references such as veterinary clinics with whom they work?
As with most professionals you hire, check references – especially with local veterinary clinics and the Better Business Bureau. This will ensure you are working with a reputable company that is trusted by your local veterinary community. Be aware if you have a hard time finding veterinarians in the community that are willing to work with a specific cremation or pet death-care company.
We hope you find the questions above helpful as you conduct your due diligence in finding a reputable company to properly care for your pet, service animal and beloved family member.