Services for Pet Loss
Many people don’t know where to turn for pet memorial services. There are several options for honoring your companion from cremation to burial sites.
By Kati Shearer

PHOENIX - The death of a pet is not an easy experience for many. It is a process that is hard to prepare for and leaves many feeling lost.

Planning ahead for a pet passing away allows owners to make decisions in a less stressful time. It is not wrong to be prepared for the final days. It is important to plan ahead of time and decide between cremation and burial.

There are different ways to honor and commemorate pets that fit into all budgets.

Pet Disposal
Many pet owners can’t afford expensive pet memorials. There are many cost efficient options in pet disposal.

Owners can call the Maricopa County Animal Care Center to arrange a drop off of the deceased pet. They do not do cremations, but will dispose of the animal for no charge.

If it is not possible for the owner to bring in the animal, he or she can call the local waste management company to pick up the pet. The animal must be properly wrapped in a trash bag for pick-up to occur.

Pet burial on private property is illegal in many counties and states, as is the case in Maricopa County. Burying deceased animals is illegal because the bodies are considered solid waste. The fines and charges vary from city to city.

According to local pet business owners, burying pets in the backyard is becoming less common. People tend to move around more and they don’t want to leave their companions behind.

Sunland Pet Rest, in Sun City, is Phoenix’s only pet cemetery. This 20-year-old cemetery still has close to 40 percent of their land available.

The animals laid to rest there are mostly dogs and cats, but the cemetery allows other animals, including parakeets, guinea pigs, ferrets, boa constrictors and horses.

Their services are:
• Home pet removal
• Full memorial service starting around $450
• Pet caskets
• Custom tombstones starting at $400 for bronze
• Custom designed memorials including personal pet estates
• Specialized animal plots starting at $325

Tombstones are not required. A small marker is included in the price of the purchased plot.

The plots can be purchased ahead of time, but are easily available after the death as well.

Joe Salyards, the cemetery’s general manager, has seen an increase in plot sales during the last few years.

“Pets, today, have pretty much become a part of the family,” Salyards said. “The grieving process is very similar to losing a family member.”

All veterinarians will offer or help guide owners to cremation sites. Due to the high volume of cremations, most vets do not offer individual cremation.

Many vets will give the remains back to owners, but several animals are placed in the crematory at the same time. They are kept separate to distinguish between remains, but all are cremated at one time.

Mass cremations are also available through service providers. A mass cremation does not allow the owner to get the remains back.

Ames Diversified, a cremation provider, contracts with several vets in Arizona. They do mass cremations in Douglas, Ariz., where they can run the crematory 24 hours a day.

They also do cremations for owners that want the remains back. These services are contracted through other local crematories.

For a more personal service, there are crematories that offer individual attention.

Fairwinds is located near 27th Avenue and Indian School Road in Phoenix. They provide individualized care for each animal.

What they promise to each client:
• Pets are refrigerated, not frozen
• Pets are never placed in trash bags, but given individual baskets and blankets
• The body is prepared for visitation
• Individual cremation (one at a time)

There are different packages available, so each service is tailored to the family. The options range from a simple cremation to a clergy-presided funeral.

Fairwinds offers home removal. They pick up each pet in a specially licensed van. The van must have a garbage-hauling license to carry the deceased pets.

The animals are placed in a small mortuary cooler upon arrival. Pets can be kept for up to 10 days in the cooler while the family makes the final plans.

Mary Rauchwarter runs the business for Barry Evans, the owner living in England. She started with the company when it opened in 2007. She was a nurse for more than 25 years and is a strong advocate for animals.

Evans and Rauchwarter started the business after noticing a local need for personalized service and care in the pet memorial industry.

Rauchwarter, like Salyards, reported an increase in customers in the past few years. She attributes the growth to many owners discovering pets are being placed in garbage bags and freezers before cremation with several other animals.

Fairwinds promises clients a humane and respectful final opportunity to say goodbye.

“It’s something that hasn’t been offered before,” Rauchwarter said.

Urns provide a resting place for pets’ remains and a keepsake for owners. At Fairwinds, urns range from $20 to $400. Best Friend Services offers a variety online.

Urns come in all shapes and sizes. There are some made to look like different breeds of animals and others made from marble.

If a family chooses to scatter the ashes, there are small commemorative urns and necklaces that hold small amounts of the remains for keepsake.

Other Ways to Honor Pet Memory
Meadow Hill Corporation sells jewelry made with engraved paw and nose prints.

Local artists, including Debra Jones and Rosa Castillo-Fowler, replicate pictures of pets into oil paintings and blankets.