There were 2.5 million deaths estimated in the United States for 2005. The figures actually came in lower, at 2.3 million. Projected pet deaths were 20 million. So, on the one hand, you've got 2.5 million human deaths, and you've got 20 million pet deaths.
I assumed pets were Tabby the cat and Barfy the dog. Oh, no. We have one woman, affectionately nicknamed The Rat Lady, who has 35 pet rats in her house. And this is a personal business, folks. "I'm coming to you to take care of my mother because I know you." Rat Lady will only deal with my sister; won't deal with me. "Where's Jean?" "Jean's out of town." "I'll wait." This is what you have—they want personal service now.
We have not been in the pet business that long, and I've had more requests for pet (diamond) LifeGems than human LifeGems—and we serve 2,300 families a year.
We've done research, talking to consumers about their experiences in funeral service, and it's amazing. We have 190 hours of video footage and it's amazing to see that not one tear was shed when they talked about the loss of a mom or dad or brother or sister, but the minute we transitioned into the discussion of the loss of a pet, the tears begin to flow.
I've been in the business 17 years, and I never would have thought I'd see something like that, where people are crying because of the unresolved grief associated with the loss of a family pet.
When you talk to funeral professionals about the idea of bringing pet loss into the equation, they immediately lift their hands and say, "I serve humans." And when you talk to veterinarians, ask them, "How about pet loss service?" they put their hands up and say, "I symbolize life." So we have a consumer who's stuck in the middle.
This is interesting: There are over 50 funeral homes in the greater Orlando, Florida area, but in this magazine for animal lovers, only two death service providers are listed for pets and they only identify themselves as cremationists, not even as pet memorial care. Their service is about disposition only.
This article compiled from an address presented by the authors at the 2006 ICFA Annual Convention