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Pet Loss Professionals Alliance


Membership

Membership in the ICCFA and its Pet Loss Professionals Alliance is open to any individual, firm or corporation that offers pet loss services to consumers or that provides supplies and services to pet loss service providers. Learn more>>>

For veterinarians and veterinarian support staff only: You may purchase a one-year subscription that will allow you access to PLPA communications and some benefits. Learn more>>>

 


 

Final Arrangements for Your Pet :: FAQs

 
As you prepare to say good-bye to your precious pet, it's important that you be educated on a variety of the options and information that's vital at this point.

First of all, as you were responsible for your pet in life, you also have that responsibility in death. Your pet was yours during their life and their body is yours in their death. With that comes the job of knowing that each aspect of their final arrangements are to be at our discretion and should not happen without a pet parent's consent. To be educated on what your options are is ours to learn and is our responsibility as good pet parents. The final decision of what you want to do is yours--and not anyone else's. It's not for your veterinarian to decide for you--nor to tell you what you can and cannot do with your pet. Unfortunately, in many states, pets are looked as personal property. Therefore, for anyone else to tell you what to do with your own property is wrong and unethical.

Educating yourself on the options and having an idea of what you want to do before the loss of your beloved pet will eliminate much anxiety and give you incredible peace of mind. Filling out a Guide To Planning Ahead will guide you through your options and what to look for as you pay tribute to your special friend.
 

 


What questions do I need to ask when looking for a place to help me with my pet's final arrangements?
It's important that the organization that you use has the same philosophy in how pets are treated as what you believe in. For instance, will you want to make sure that your pet's body is not put into a trash bag but is picked up immediately? There will also be other service offerings that you will want to consider:

  • How and when will your pet's body be picked up?
  • Will you have the opportunity for a memorial service or a visitation?
  • Is there a variety of memorialization items that you can choose from?
  • When will you get your pet's cremains returned to you?

 

 

 
What's really the right question to ask?

Many times the question asked when your pet dies is "Do you want the cremains returned to you?" But, is that really the right question for you and your family? Wouldn't it be more appropriate to have been asked "How would you like your pet treated?"

Typically, when cremains are not returned to the family your pet is cremated in a group (Communal Cremation). But, even with the return of the cremains, your pet could be cremated by itself (Private Cremation), with a few others at the same time (Partitioned Cremation) or as a Communal Cremation (which is deemed to be unethical within the profession and potentially illegal). Having knowledge is having power. Ask about the process that your provider plans for your pet to make sure it is right for you and your family. Then YOU can tell them how you want your pet treated.

I suggest that your first statement to anyone in the pet after-care profession be "This is how I want my pet to be cremated (Private, Partitioned, Communal)" and the secondary statement would then be "I would/or would not like my pet's cremains returned to me."

In that way you will know exactly how your pet is to be treated and you can feel assured that it was treated with the dignity and respect it deserves.

 

 
 
 
What decisions will need to be made for my pet's final arrangements?
The first question that you will have to ask yourself is do I want burial or cremation for my pet. There are some factors that will influence your decision; such as if you are going to bury your pet, where will the burial be? Some of the areas of consideration with this decision are:
  • Will this town/county/development allow pet burials?
  • Will you always live in this area or have access to this burial ground?
  • Do your religious preferences guide you in one way or another?
  • Did your pet like the outside or the inside? Will that influence your pet's final resting place?
Lastly, if you are burying, there is also the opportunity to place your pet in a casket. Many people will use a casket to not only protect their pet's body but to also protect the ground where the pet is buried.
 
I'm contemplating cremation for my pet. What do I need to know?
First of all, will you want the ashes returned? If no, then you will want to ask your pet death care service for a group, or communal, cremation. With this, pets will be cremated together with no body separation and no ash return to the pet owner. While many pet death care operations will scatter the ashes over a known area intended for that purpose, there are some organizations that will take the cremains to the landfill. Ask your pet death care provider what they do with the cremains.
 
If you are wanting the ashes of your pet returned to you, and you want to be assured that your pet's body is the only one in the cremation machine, request a "private cremation" from your pet death care provider. With a private cremation, pets are cremated alone and are the only body within the cremation chamber. Pet parents will receive their pet's cremains, and only their pet's cremains. It's important to verify with your pet death care provider that your pet is the only body in the cremation chamber during the cremation process.  
 
Many pet death care providers will provide a tracking system for the cremation process of pets through the use of a “tag” with a unique number that will accompany the pet's body. To ensure the safety, security and authentication of the cremation process, inquiring on this part of your pet death care provider's policy will give you the peace of mind in knowing about the care of your pet's mortal remains.
 
 
Are there other ways that pets are cremated?
Some pet death care providers will do what they call a "segregated" cremation. Others will call this process an individual cremation, a communal cremation with ash return, or separated cremation. This is where several pets will be placed into the cremation chamber with some form of separation. At the end of the cremation period each portion of ashes will be removed separately. A certain amount of mixing of ashes, or commingling, may occur due to the volatile nature of cremation.
 
While this process is being done, it's vital that as a pet parent, you are asking for clarification on the type of cremation that is being done with your pet. All pet death care facilities should be very specific with what their practices are and you, as a pet parent, should be made aware of what you are receiving. IT'S YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO ASK QUESTIONS.
 
 
 
 
What are other services that could help me memorialize my beloved pet?
Many families will also want to have that one last time to visit their pet after death, a visitation or wake, if you will. While this may seem like a trivial thing--or possibly something that you consider morbid and odd, this one last time with your pet is valuable time spent. A time to see your pet at peace. A time for your children to pay tribute by bringing in items that was special to your pet. A time to begin the grief journey and to say that final good-bye.  Many times, other friends, family members, and other pets in the household will want to have their final good-bye with your pet too. Pets touch so many people during their short lives with us. Allow those around you the opportunity to come together, pay their respects, and support each other.
 
 
 
 
As a family, we celebrated holidays with our pets and always had them as a part of our family rituals. Is it acceptable to do the rituals that are important to us with other deaths in our family for our pets?
Incorporating rituals into honoring your pet's life is a beautiful way to pay tribute to the life that you shared together. Whether it be a visitation or a memorial service, these rituals are incredibly important in your grief journey and mourning process.
     
There are other rituals that you can incorporate into honoring your pet's life.  They can look like:
  • Special readings
  • The planting of a tree/flower/bush
  • Rituals you and your pet did to say “I love you”
  • Scripture readings
  • A candle lighting tribute
  • A donation drive for a local shelter in memory of your pet
  • Reading of special poems and remembrances
  • Playing audio tapes of their meow/bark/chirp
  • Sharing videos of the pet and your family
  • Reading a eulogy to remember your pet's life with your family
 
 
How do I choose the right memorialization product for my pet?
Making a decision on memorialization products is a personal process. This will be reflective of the life shared with your pet, your life style, your personal style, and those items that are reflective of your pet's personality. It's also important to take into consideration where your memorialization pieces will go in your home, or in your yard, and how you want the item to look, either blending in with your decor or making an individual statement. In addition, if you have a large pet family, consider a memorialization piece where all of the pets can be together.

Memorialization products that you might want to consider are:
  • Rocks or Garden Flagstones--personalized with your pet's paw and special epitaph
  • Jewelry that would have the pet's own paw print or nose print on it
  • An urn that is reflective of your decorating style
  • An eco-friendly urn for burial in a special location
  • An urn with paw prints to show your love of animals
  • A piece of art done to depict the pet's personality
  • A personalized urn made to look like the pet
  • A frame to hold a cast of your pet's paw print, nose print, and locket of hair
  • Locket jewelry to hold a bit of the pet's ashes or hair
  • Memorial Note Cards


I want to make the personalization, or epitaph, on my pet's memorialization pieces very special. Guide me in how to do this.
The personalization of your memorial pieces will truly make them as unique as your relationship was with your pet. From an inscription on an urn or jewelry piece to the saying on a rock or marker, your sentimental words will create a true reflection of the love that you have for your special pet. Hearing other friends and family member's stories is certainly a wonderful way to reflectively pay tribute to your pet and get everyone involved in honoring their life. Consider thinking about your pet's entire life, more than just their name and their birth/gotcha date and death date. Reflect on thoughts of your pet and--what makes you smile? Maybe it's a nickname, or ALL of the nicknames! Or a saying that really sums up your pet, such as "My Little Peter Pan Mixed With Dennis the Menace." It could possibly also be a piece of clip art that represents a love of your pet, such as a slice of pizza.

Be creative. Again, reflect on you and your pet and the life that you shared together. Create the memorialization and personalization of your pieces to best tell this story.
 
 
 
 
How do I choose an urn?
There are a variety of urns that are available. The type of urn you select will be an individual decision and one that will reflect the life that you shared with your pet. Urns are available in many sizes, materials, shapes, and colors.

In choosing an urn, there will be a few considerations. First of all, in choosing an urn you will want to think about the personality of your pet. Was your pet colorful, therefore, you would want a colorful piece. Or was your pet very feminine so a girly urn is what will let you honor your pet?

You will also want to certainly think about you and your home's style. In considering an urn, where will the urn sit in your home? What will be around it? Will you want the urn to blend in or stand out?

And, lastly, do you have other pets where you will want to have a "family urn?" A beautiful option as your pets lived under one roof in life let them all reside together in death in a family urn.

Another option for you to consider is a keepsake urns. These are designed to hold a small amount of cremains or fur/hair clippings. A keepsake urn is also a perfect way to allow family and friends who also may want to have a remembrance of your pet.
    
Many families will also want to have a remembrance of their pet with them daily. Keepsake jewelry is the perfect vessel to hold a very small amount of cremains or fur/hair clippings. These pieces will come in many different shapes and sizes, in necklaces, bracelets, and in key chains.
 
 
 
 
What size urn do I need?
The weight of your pet will determine the size of urn that you will need.  For purposes of ordering, or choosing an urn, one cubic inch of urn will accommodate one pound of your pet. Therefore, if your pet weighed 30 pounds, then you will need a 30 cubic inch urn.  Many families will choose an urn that is much larger, giving them room to hold the pet's collar, leash, or favorite toy.
 

Information provided courtesy of Two Hearts Pet Loss Center


 

Advice Regarding Steps to Do and Things to Consider When a Pet Dies at Home

Courtesy of Clock Timeless Pets, Muskegon, Michigan


Five Ways to Support Children When a Pet Dies

Reprinted with approval from Dana Durrance, M.A. Veterinary Grief Specialist and Consultant 


Your pet's death may be your children's first experience with loss and feelings of grief. This experience presents an opportunity for you to teach your children to express grief in emotionally healthy ways, free of shame or embarrassment.

Many grief specialists believe that children can learn and grow from the grief if the adults in their lives follow a few key guidelines:

 

1. Be as honest as possible 

It's tempting to try to protect children from any kind of emotional pain. Yet, attempting to "soften the blow" by telling children that a pet 'ran away' or 'went to live with someone else' only creates a different kind of pain. Losing a pet under any circumstances will cause children to grieve and thinking that a family pet ran away may add feelings of abandonment and rejection. 


2. Encourage children to view a pet's body and to say good-bye 

If a pet dies suddenly, it can be beneficial for your child to see the pet's body and be able to say good-bye in whatever way they are comfortable. This may include touching the pet, holding and hugging the pet, and even spending time alone with the pet's body. Depending on where the pet's death occurs, either you or your veterinarian can clean the pet's fur of any blood, remove any medical equipment or supplies (catheters, tape, etc.) and position the body so it is soothing to see, perhaps curled into a pet bed or nestled into a container that has been lined with a soft blanket. 


3. Involve children in the euthanasia process

The key to a comforting good-bye process for children is how well they are prepared to face their pet's death. Speak with your veterinarian before your pet is euthanized so you are well informed about the procedures your child will witness and about the level of emotional support you and your child can expect to receive.

Children who are well prepared can usually handle the intense emotions that are part of euthanasia. Research, along with clinical experience, shows that it is beneficial for children to say a personal good-bye to a loved one who has died.


4. Allow children to make their own choices 

Children should be allowed to make their own choices about how much they wish to be involved with the process of saying good-bye to a pet. Older children may choose to be with a pet when the euthanasia is performed, while younger children may choose to say good-bye while their pet is still alive. Other children may choose to view a pet's body only after death has occurred, reassuring themselves that their beloved pet has really died.

Very young children don't really understand death and have short attention spans. If your young child wants to be included, it's a good idea to ask a friend to be with your family when your pet dies, so he or she can take care of your young child. This allows you and your older children uninterrupted time to say your own good-byes.


5. Allow time for grief

Since children have shorter attention spans than adults and because they express their grief differently, be aware that your children may grieve the loss in "short bursts." Children are unable to sustain intense grief emotions for long periods of time. Therefore, it is normal for children to go from crying and being very upset one minute, to wanting to go and play the next. This is not a sign of indifference or poor coping; it is simply they way in which they need to work through their grief.

As a caring parent, it may be tempting for you to try to "cheer up" your grieving children by immediately adopting a new pet. Sometimes this works and it is often at the children's own request.  However, while some people are able to bond with a new pet and grieve for the one who died at the same time, there's no "right" time to adopt a new pet. You want to be sure that your children don't get the message that a family member who dies is easily replaceable.

While adopting a new pet may help your whole family feel better, grieving together can also bring you closer together. Then, when everyone feels ready, a new pet can join you and find his or her own joyful place in your family. 

 

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