A green alternative to cremation

End-of-life planning for pets offers new options

  • Apr. 18, 2013 7:00 a.m.

Jocelyn Monette and her pet Lucy.

End-of-life planning for pets offers new options

When it comes to end-of-life planning, family pets often don’t get the same consideration as human members. Pet owners usually take their beloved animal to their family vet for euthanasia, then on to one of the city’s established pet crematoriums for disposal.

Unless the owner takes the time to research their options, most wouldn’t know that other, greener options exist.

Victoria is home to the first pet funeral home in the world that offers alkaline hydrolysis or “aquamation” services. Instead of burning the body using fossil fuels, the process of aquamation uses potassium hydroxide, caustic soda beads and water to dissolve the organic tissue, leaving the bones behind. The family can then opt to have the bones ground into a fine dust and returned to them in an urn, or disposed of by the operator.

Jocelyn Monette started Pet Loss Care Memorial Centre, a full-service funeral home for pets, on a Saanich farm in January after a lengthy career in pet cremation.

“It’s not fun to burn animals,” says Monette. “I never liked the technology and I wanted something better.”

She traded in her flame-based crematorium for the PET400, a low pressure alkaline hydrolysis pet disposition system created by Bio Response Solutions of Pittsboro, Indiana. She was attracted to the aquamation process because of its reduced environmental impact — not only does it produce one tenth of the environmental footprint of flame-based cremation, the byproduct (a sterile coffee-coloured liquid) “is very rich in nitrogen and pH” and can safely be disposed of in a sewer system, or in this case, be added to compost.

“It could go into sewage, but since there’s no treatment plant here, the CRD denied access. They recommended I speak with a compost operation or a farm.”

Pet Loss Care Memorial Centre is located on the Stanhope Dairy Farm in Central Saanich — one of the largest farms in the region, which is also home to a large-scale composting operation. The liquid byproduct is added to the compost.

“I’m giving back to the eco system,” says Monette.

Families have the option to have a private aquamation or to have it done communally. In both cases, the animals are placed in individual cradles so their bones don’t mix. The aquamation process is much more gentle on the bodies, too. After the process is finished and the effluent drained, often the bones are left completely intact.

The stainless steel aquamation system uses less energy and resources to produce and is designed to outlast a flame-based machine, which needs regular maintenance.

Pet Loss Care Memorial Centre was awarded a Greater Victoria Business Award for Innovation in 2011 for creating a full-service funeral home for family pets, and being the first in the region to video certify each cremation (Pet Loss Care used flame-based cremation at the time) and is also up for a Sustainability Business Practices Award by the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce in 2013. M

Find out more at petmemorialcentre.ca.

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