In the last 15 years of business with Eden Memorial Pet Care, I have heard it all…”You do what for a living?” to “Wow, what a great service!”; I almost get entertained by what reaction I might receive from a fellow friend or acquaintance. Pet Aftercare services 10-20 years ago were either not heard of or it was a “back door service” through your veterinarian. You may have never questioned what happened to your pet if you decided not to take him/her home for burial or what would you do for your beloved equine.
Times Have Changed Pet Aftercare Services
Times have changed and our horses and pets are not just pets anymore; they are family. Common terms used now throughout the pet industry and among veterinarians are “Pet Parent” and “Animal Companion”. It’s a reflection of how we view our “fur babies” and the care/services we come to expect for our pets has to be nothing short of the absolute utmost best! We choose the best food, the best bedding, and the best veterinarian. We have pet insurance, pet clothing, pet sitters, pet boutiques and even doggie day care, let alone the money we invest into our horses! So where is the Pet Aftercare Industry going? What are the growing trends? What are we hearing from our fellow colleagues across the country of what our clients want when it comes to end of life services? Well I can tell you one thing…it has changed drastically in the last 5 years and still changing rapidly.
Pet Death Convention – Looking After Pet Aftercare
About 10 years ago, when I went to my first industry conference, the International Association of Pet Cemeteries and Crematories, (IAOPCC), I attended with my dad a veterinarian of 40 years. We had joined this organization a few years prior and knew we had to go to one of “these” meetings to keep good standings with the association but hopefully to also learn something. Even being apart of the industry, we giggled to think what sort of people attend these conferences. Friends would try not to laugh when they heard I was going to a “pet death convention”.
“Dad.” I said one day. “I have to attend the IAOPCC Conference this year, do you want to go?”
“Sure! We will make it a father/daughter trip.” He responded.
We both agreed, even if the convention was a bust, we would have some good quality time together— so off we went!
More Than What We Imagined
We had no clue what we were in for…my dad being a veterinarian went to these industry conferences all the time. He said, “ If you can go to one of these things and at least walk away learning one thing, good or bad…it’s a success.”
It was incredible! We both walked away with a world of knowledge, pages of notes, a pocketful of networking contacts and a 5-10 year plan to some day expand our business into an even more personalized aftercare business. I will never forget sitting on the plane on the ride home, drawing on cocktail napkins and sketching in our notebooks “building plans” and what our vision might look like as we grew our business.
How Pet Aftercare Has Changed
Ten years have come and gone, the industry continues to change and grow, and clients have spoken— people want a more personalized caring service for their animal companion when they pass; just as you would experience at a funeral home for your family. They want time to grieve, they want people to grieve with, they want memorials, personalized urns, viewings, ceremonies and much more. There was a time when pet burial was more popular. If you spoke to owners of pet cemeteries vs. pet crematories, they would have told you that a majority of people would choose pet burial either at home or in a cemetery over cremation. The percentages were as high as 80% burial vs. 20% cremation. Fast-forward to more recently, these percentages have completely switched. And for our equine companions, our choice was ranch burial or tallow. Today, you have options and more and more people are choosing cremation for their animal companions.
Why Cremation Has Become The Standard in Pet Aftercare
So why? Why cremation over burial? There are many reasons but a few main deciding factors are: Less land and/or local laws restricting burial at home, people moving more often, and cremation becoming more popular a choice for humans. So let’s briefly unpack these reasons.
Reason One – Less Open Space
First off, we all know there are more humans populating this earth. Urban sprawl is happening and there is less open space and more cookie cutter residential neighborhoods developing everywhere. This brings small backyards and/or less area to properly bury “Fluffy” in the backyard or under the tree like you may have done when you were a kid. Also, local laws can prohibit pet burial at home or have restrictions of country burials; usually not wanting pets/animals buried near water sources.
Reason Two – We Are More Mobile
Second, we move more than we used to. Job security is not what it used to be and families tend to either rent more or buy and sell more often. Whether its because of finding new jobs, getting your kids in better schools or personal decisions moving more often is a normal part of our culture. We don’t want to bury “Fluffy” in the backyard, if we know we might be moving and leave our pet’s place of rest behind and not able to visit them again.
Reason Three – It’s The People Trend
And lastly, people are choosing cremation for themselves as their aftercare option. Cemetery family plots are becoming less and less, plots are expensive to purchase and you are leaving a legacy of cemetery maintenance fees to your living kin. Let alone, people want to choose an option that reflects a more “environmental” cleaner way to speed up the process of natural decomposition. People, who choose cremation, can also have their cremains put in a Columbarium for family members to visit, spread in a meaningful place, or split up among family members. So if people are thinking these options for themselves, it’s a natural trickle down effect they want the same for their furry family member.
Pet Aftercare Future Trends
So where is the Pet Aftercare going now? And what trends can we see in the near future? Many people will say we are about 7-10 years behind the human death care industry. I would beg to differ that it is more like 5 -7 years. When it comes to what clients are asking for when it comes to services and memorial products, that gap is even smaller. But in my opinion, if we are talking about regulations, then definitely 5+ years.
Pets Are Family
Think about this…when we get a new pet, whether it is a puppy, kitten, rescue animal, horse no matter the species, that animal is our responsibility and becomes our family and best friend. The first thing you need for your best friend is a doctor. And what do you do but go out and find the best doctor for your new family member. As you live together with this animal, enjoying each memory and moment, you are never thinking of what will happen when they pass away. Many times I hear people even say, “I don’t know what I’ll do if ‘Fluffy’ dies.” But it’s not a matter of “IF” it is “When”. And just as we plan our final days and aftercare, people are now starting to really think and pre-plan for their companion’s aftercare.
Pet Wills and Trusts
Pre-planned Pet Aftercare, Pet Wills/Trusts and researching options for all the above is not uncommon today. We, at Eden Memorial Pet Care, answer phone calls and emails weekly now handling clients, who are asking questions and researching their options so that when the time comes, they are prepared and know exactly what they want for their best friend/family member. We have been listening to our clients and educating ourselves through seminars and industry trends to see what is next. Clients want more personalized memorial products, special ceremonies and even special private grieving rooms to say goodbye to their loved one. There is usually not a request too far out there or product we can’t at least try to find for one of our clients.
So What Are Your Pet Aftercare options?
- Home Burial – still an option…but check with your local laws and what is allowed and/or prohibited.
- Pet Cemeteries- very regional. The Internet is a good tool for finding pet cemeteries in your area. For the Central Coast, the options are Northern and Southern California. See referral list at end of this article.
- Cremation – many options for small and large animal are available locally through your veterinarian or privately. Do your research and make sure the facility offers the services you want and are top rated.
Choices for Memorials:
- At Home – Head stones, garden stones, garden stakes. Internet is a great source for products and/or check with your local crematory. They may carry products at their facility.
- Cemeteries – Head stones, Memorial Bricks/plaques
- Crematories – Urns, Scatter tubes, Keepsakes, Memorial Products. Skies the limit; just ask your local crematory representative. If they don’t carry it, they should be ale to find a referral for you.
Asking the Right Questions
Always do your research. Make sure you are getting the answers you want and that whatever cemetery and/or crematory you use is well rated, accredited, and/or has excellent reviews. Ask your veterinarian, friends, and family and referring to the Internet is always a great way to start.
Planning Pet Aftercare for Your Animal Companion
Making a plan should be what makes sense to you and your family. How do you want to remember your animal companion? Is it visiting him/her at a pet cemetery, having their cremains to spread in a special place or having the cremains in a special urn, jewelry, or keepsake as a forever memento? You can pre-plan services and also plan Pet Wills/Trusts to make sure your pet is cared for in the case that you pass away before they do. Who will care for them? What are your wishes and who should carry them out if you were gone? And who will be paying for their care? The Internet is a great place to start and here are a few articles to get you going.
Do What is Right for Your Pet
To have seen this industry change and grow over the last 15 years has been an incredible journey. As an animal lover myself, I would always treat my pets and even my 4-H steer projects as my “little babies”. So here we are…pet parents have spoken…they want more and they want the best! None of us want to think of the day our animal companions leave us to cross that Rainbow Bridge; but it’s a fact of life. A subject that is not as taboo as it once used to be but something we start to think about as our pet’s muzzle turns grey and he/she starts to slow down a little more. Know that you are not alone and across the country and the world, Pet Aftercare, is a hot topic. You have choices and options; so plan accordingly, do your research and ask questions. Do what is right for you and your family for going through grief can be one of the most difficult emotions yet memorable times in your life.
Pet Cemetery Options in California:
Los Angeles Pet Cemetery: 818-591-7037
San Diego Pet Memorial Park: 858-909-0009
Sorrento Valley Pet Cemetery: 619-276-3361
Bubbling Well – Napa: 707-255-3456
Loved Pets – Monterey: 831-722-8722
Pastures of Heaven – Monterey: (opening soon) 831-204-8080
Pets Rest – Colma: 650-755-2201
Franklin Pet Cemetery – Fresno: 209-383-4582
Fresno Pet Cemetery – 559-266-6753