CARLISLE, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwire -04/03/12)- Fears that grieving pet owners in the UK are being misled when paying for their pets to be individually cremated have surfaced following an undercover investigation which exposed deception at pet crematoriums in the Vancouver area of British Columbia, Canada.
In the UK, as well as in Canada and across the world, there is no regulation of the pet cremation industry. The majority of pet cremations are sold by vets, the nature of the service is rarely described in detail and the mark-ups vets' make on contracting out these services are a significant contribution to their annual profits.
Companies vying to win lucrative contracts with vets compete to cut their costs as much as possible - and so the likelihood grows that pet owners don't get the service they expect - but may never find out the truth. A case in Derbyshire last year highlighted the problems. Pet cremations sold through a vet were later found to be fraudulent after the pets were found dumped in a field.
Concerned that bereaved pet owners needed more protection, The Association of Private Pet Cemeteries & Crematoria was formed in the UK and its members operate to a code of practice ensuring that an individual cremation means that the pet is placed alone in a cremation chamber - as with a human cremation - and care and respect shown in all aspects of the service.
APPCC Vice Chairman Stephen Mayles said: "We know that mis-selling is taking places by the fact that the services are not described."
He added: "One of our members was told by a vet that had recently come into a practice that he was shocked that they weren't making large mark-ups on the cremations - and that was how other vet practices worked. By using commercial veterinary services a vet practice can make very large profits from selling cremations. Coupled with this are inducements to sell a certain number of "individual" cremations a month providing a situation where distressed pet owners are liable to be pushed into paying for something that may not be what they want.
The Canadian investigation was paid for by the Pet Cremation Alliance, a group of animal lovers and pet industry experts who suspected unethical behaviour on the part of some companies.
Using an experienced private investigator, they bought life-sized toy cats, removed their fillings and substituted raw meat. The toys were then frozen and taken to 12 Vancouver pet crematoriums for an individual cremation. When the toy cat was burned only some metal and dust should have been returned, but in six cases urns of ashes were returned that archaeologists confirmed included animal bone fragments - presumably the remains of someone else's pet.
Could similar deceptions be happening in the UK? The APPCC believes the answer is 'yes'. In the UK the only licensing of pet crematoriums is at waste disposal level to ensure that environmental laws are not broken. Many pet cremations are mass disposals where multiple animal bodies are burned together and finally sent to a waste site. There are also 'segregated' cremations where bodies are placed in the cremator either on numbered trays or separated by bricks or other means. The APPCC is aware that many cremation companies and vets describe this as an individual or private cremation without going into the detail.
Mr Mayles said: "Since cremation is a volatile process nobody can predict just how much mixing of remains will occur. Sometimes there is no movement and other times the remains may be tossed around the chamber. Even if there is no mixing the service is not necessarily what a person would be expecting from an 'individual' cremation."
The APPCC wants to see:
- The APPCC trading standards adopted by all veterinary surgeries to provide full details of ALL the levels of cremation and disposal services on offer so owners can make an informed choice.
- Vets charging for arranging a cremation, storage of the body, etc and passing on pet crematorium costs as a disbursement.
- Pet owners made aware that they don't HAVE to leave their pet with their vet and accept the service offered.
Questions you should ask your vet or cremation service are:
- What is your exact definition of an "individual" cremation?
- How do you identify animals' individual ashes?
- How do you store and transport my pet to be cremated and how are the ashes transported after cremation?
- How will you ensure my pet is treated with care and respect throughout the whole process?
Mr Mayles said: "The veterinary world is changing rapidly from a professional to a commercial service. Decisions are not necessarily taken for the benefit of the clients but for the bottom line of the business. That is not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to the core business as the two can coincide - but when unregulated services are sold for pure profit it is a doorway to disaster."
Association of Private Pet Cemeteries & Crematoria - http://appcc.org.uk/index.htm
Pet Cremation Alliance - http://petcremationalliance.org