The Association of Private Pet Cemeteries and Crematoria is introducing a new system of independent inspections to enable its members to stand out from the crowd.
Association directors say the move is unprecedented and will boost public confidence in the pet funeral industry.
Businesses wishing to take up the new category of membership will face vigorous workplace assessments conducted by The Consultant Connection (TCC). The company specialises in consumer code compliance.
Experienced inspectors will examine every aspect of the operation, from the way services are described in marketing literature to how costs and options are explained to pet owners.
In addition to ensuring businesses are operating legally, assessors will focus heavily on the care and respect afforded to pets. This covers the moment a pet is first handled to when it is buried or when its ashes are returned.
Inspectors will need to be convinced that people who have suffered the loss of a pet are treated as vulnerable consumers. They will also ascertain that pet owners are given sufficient time to make rational decisions on the service which best suits their specific budget and sensitivities.
Three pet crematoriums agreed to have their premises inspected as part of a pilot study. Amongst them was APPCC vice chairman Steve Mayles and director Kevin Spurgeon.
All three passed, but Mr Mayles said they were taken aback by the attention to detail involved.
“After nearly 30 years in the business, I still found it unnerving to have somebody go through everything we do and offer with a such a fine tooth comb,” he said.
“But it is essential that the inspections are meaningful if we are to win the confidence of the public. The company carrying out the tests has nothing to do whatsoever with the pet funeral industry and it has drafted a new consumer code for participating members.
“This code is fully geared towards protecting the public. It has been created from the pet owner’s point of view and and has been formed by people with great expertise in consumer rights. Nothing like this has ever been seen before in the pet funeral sector. We will be encouraging all our members to participate and at a later stage we might even make it a mandatory requirement of membership.”
The APPCC has been setting international standards for the pet cremation services industry for the past 20 years and has always set strict regulations for its members to follow.
“We have always tried to see things from the consumer’s point of view, but now we have gone a step further and have handed that task to an expert and independent body.
“In the long run it will benefit our members by offering them the chance to prove their credentials, but crucially it will help reassure and protect pet owners.”
The decision to take such a bold step was sparked by unsavoury press reports, which, although rarely involving APPCC members, effectively tarred them with them the same brush.
“We’ve had many alarming cases brought to our attention by distressed animal lovers,” said Mr Mayles.
“One couple left the body of their dog with a vet only to discover it had been cremated at a giant crematorium many miles away. They visited the crematorium and were shocked to find it operated on an industrial scale. They also discovered their dog had been treated like a piece of waste. There was no guarantee their animal had been given the dignity they would have demanded for it.
“The way the industry is regulated relates to the rules and regulations of waste disposal. That is something we are addressing with the new inspection system.”
Another recent case that came to the attention of the APPCC involved a woman who received a ‘mouse’ worth of ashes back from her cat’s cremation.
Mr Mayles said the woman was distressed for months after the incident.
“These are typical of the stories which have prompted us to take such strong action,” added Mr Mayles.
“The new code prepared for members who have passed inspections does not just home in on the letter of the law – but also the very spirit of the law.
“It ensures pet owners get the service they want and the service they have paid their money for.
“The inspections represent a genuine breakthrough and is great news for people who care about the way their pets are treated after death as well as in life.”